Carl Casinghino is the man in the Suffield High School hallway exchanging French pleasantries with students
"A demain, Monsiour Casinghino."
And he's the enthusiastic voice from the classroom, whooping it up after the screening of a documentary by a student.
"Woo-hoo! That was incredible! Wow!"
As of last month, he's also Suffield's 2011 teacher of the year.
“I want [my students] to learn to love learning, to retain their curiosity," Casinghino said. "And that’s a hard thing because there’s a whole variety of pressures out there… I want them to be excited by the things they find interesting.”
It's that philosophy that led Casinghino to this point and place in his life: French teacher, filmmaker and family man.
Casinghino grew up in Suffield and graduated with the SHS class of 1984. He then went to New Jersey to study at Princeton University. A graduate course in film studies at New York University followed, bringing together his love of French language and culture, film and education.
During work on his thesis, he began to think about bringing the art of filmmaking together with education.
“I’ve always had the mind and heart of a teacher,” Casinghino said. "And I knew I needed to get into film. I had a passion as a filmmaker," he said.
Twelve years ago, Casinghino proposed the school's film program, Fundamentals of Film and Video, bringing his two passions together.
Although it sounds like moviemaking and cinema studies should go hand in hand, they often don’t. Casinghino’s curriculum and textbook (Moving Images, published last year) bring them together. He’s been exploring the idea since he wrote his thesis many years ago.
“The concept of teaching this is everything I could have hoped for," he said.
The class provides students with an introduction to the general history and technical developments of film as well as opportunities to explore narrative storytelling using video.
Just last week his students held a film festival to showcase their hard work.
Casinghino is also passionate about France, the French and French culture. He's worked to create a strong French program, using technology to teleconference between his American students and a group of French counterparts during class.
When his students travel to France on the class trip, they meet up with the French students, stay at their homes and attend their school.
The students are engaged in the culture as well as learning the language, Casinghino said. Some go on to college overseas and some have worked and volunteered in foreign countries.
With school ending this week, he is looking forward to some downtime. He likes to write music, books and screenplays as well as produce music.
And of course, he'll be spending lots of time with family.
He is married to Alexandra, whom he met in Paris during college. They have three children: Matteo, a sixth-grade student, Lucie, in second grade, and Vincent, a kindergartener. Both of Casinghino's parents live nearby, as well as his brother and sister, who also works for Suffield schools.
"My family is very close knit," he said.
This summer he’ll be presenting the film curriculum at the National Association for Media Literacy in Education conference in Philadelphia. He’ll also be headed back to France to visit Alexandra's family.
And while you may think Casinghino would document it every step of the way, that's not the case.
“Funny enough, I’m not really one of those camera-in-hand kind of guys,” he said with a laugh.