This unit explores the work and life of Leonard Covello and discusses themes related to the ethnic and immigrant history of the United Stated during the early twentieth century. Covello was an Italian-born American who dedicated his life to implement strategies for cultural integration. He became well-known for his innovative work as a public school teacher and administrator in the Italian community and, later, Puerto Rican communities of East Harlem, NY. His personal experience as a member of an Italian-immigrant family, and his formation in education, made him develop strong commitments to the recognition of cultural pluralism. Through his work, and educational strategies, Covello emphasized the importance of immigrant children being conscious and proud of their cultures while learning to adapt to life in the United States. Thus, he promoted the implementation of intercultural education and community-centered schools that aimed to integrate Italian, Puerto Rican, and African-American children into the community. His teachings promoted cultural diversity, tolerance, and understanding among the students, their parents, and the community.
The unit aims to analyze the way immigration has shaped the United States as a diverse society using Covello as a case-study. Most of the material used in this unit plan comes from the Leonard Covello Papers (1907-1974), an extensive collection that comprises his teachings, publications, photographs, and personal records. This archival material reflects Covello’s interest in understanding and improving his neighborhood, and illustrates the diversity of the East Harlem community during the twentieth century.
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