Dessi-Olive Reflects on Her Immigration Story

Long-time French teacher uses legacy of immigrants to expand lessons


Immigrants comprise more than eight percent of the Minnesota community. Due to intolerance, there can be many challenges faced by these immigrants, in and outside of the Blake community. Whether you speak the language or not, living in a place so radically different from where you grew up can be difficult. A first-generation French citizen and Upper School language teacher at Blake, Silvana Dessi-Olive says, “When I first studied, people would be intimidated, just assume that it was easy for me [to teach French]… I am teaching my native language, but it’s actually a lot harder to teach your own language.”

On the subject of having immigrant parents, she says, “Not only am I an immigrant to this country, but my parents were immigrants in France [From Sardinia, Italy]… I felt terrible; I was embarrassed that my parents didn’t understand [French]… When my parents would come, teachers would not take the time to understand, and I had the pressure to, in a way, to impress the teachers and try to be the translator for my parents. You have to play all these different roles, which is difficult.”

She highlights how these experiences have made her more compassionate, especially to students at Blake. Dessi-Olive says, “I make sure I take my time; if I have to take extra time, I do, if I have to meet another time, I’ll make time for those parents that take the time to come and see the teachers.” The Blake community is quite welcoming and not as prejudiced compared to Dessi-Olive’s childhood teachers, “I think at Blake, it has been pretty good.”