Italian School of San Diego LLC teaches Italian and the Italian culture to kids and adults. It was launched in collaboration with the Italian American Academy of San Diego (IAASD) as a continuation of their Italian language program for children here in San Diego. Our goal is to promote and enhance the learning of the Italian language and culture from a didactic and human point of view. Each week students are welcomed into an engaging environment that favors the pleasure of learning, and the Italian school gives students and their families a space to congregate, united by their passion for Italy and its language.

The legacy of IAASD

Learn more about the history of IAASD

Our location

See the dedicated space about the space that hosts our school

Our founders

Maura D’Andrea - School director and teacher

Maura D’Andrea

Maura was born and raised in Milan, Italy, and obtained her Master Degree in Educational Science, specializing in training processes, at the Universita' del Sacro Cuore in Milan. Before graduation, she spent a period of study in Spain at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where she became fluent in Spanish. She then moved, 12 years ago, to the United States, first to Santa Barbara then to San Diego, with her family.

Mother of two girls, she cultivated her interest in Education attending the Continuing Education “3-5 preschool experience” classes for 5 years. The courses focused on building social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language skills that prepare the preschooler for Kindergarten.

Maura has been teaching Italian language, literature and writing to children and adults. She joined the Italian American Academy of San Diego faculty in 2019 and taught 2nd and 4th grade classes.

She specializes in maximizing interdisciplinary learning opportunities in different school settings. Creative and compassionate literature is always part of her curriculum. She emphasize dialogue, collaboration and innovation.

She volunteers hundreds of hours each year at the elementary school attended by her daughters as room representative, PTA member, dance performance facilitator and teacher’s support in class for Math, Literature and Art. With joy and enthusiasm she also organizes informal events for Italian families to facilitate the integration of newcomers and the practice of the Italian language and culture.

In 2021 Maura decided to open the Italian school of San Diego to continue the mission undertaken by the Italian American Academy of San Diego of teaching Italian and Italy’s culture.

Marilisa Dowling - Director of K-3 classes and teacher

Marilisa Dowling

Marilisa was born and raised in a bilingual (Italian-English) home in Rome, Italy where she attended international primary and secondary schools. She later studied at WPI in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she received a B.S. in biotechnology and a M.S. in biology. After completing her studies, Marilisa worked briefly as a biologist in La Jolla, before her passion brought her to New York City where she studied acting at John Basil Studios and William Esper Studio. She also worked as an event planner at Columbia University.

In 2015 Marilisa returned to San Diego with her husband and their two young children. She was excited to learn about an Italian school for children in San Diego (Italian American Academy of San Diego, IAASD) and immediately enrolled her then-four-year-old son. She watched with pleasure as his Italian language fluency flourished and was thrilled that both he and she could meet other Italian families in San Diego. In 2017, inspired by the mission of the school, Marilisa joined the faculty of IAASD where she taught Italian to the youngest students, ages 4-6. In 2021, when IAASD’s elementary school program ended, Marilisa transitioned to teaching at IAASD’s sister school, Italian school of San Diego, where she continues to teach students in grades K-3.

Marilisa currently works as a parent volunteer at her children’s elementary school, focusing on reading and literacy skills. She is also a substitute teacher with Chula Vista Elementary School District and Sweetwater High School District.

Andrea Zonca - Director of Operations

Andrea Zonca

Andrea was born and raised in Milan, few miles from Maura’s hometown, they met in 1999 and married in 2004.

He has a PhD in Astrophysics and works as a computational scientist at the University of California San Diego. Beyond research, he has been teaching graduate students how to analyze data on Supercomputers for more than 10 years.

Andrea moonlights to handle business operations, accounting, tech support and web development for the Italian school of San Diego.

He also loves learning languages as a hobby: he speaks Italian, English, Spanish, some French, some Russian and is now studying Japanese.

Our instructors

Marina Johnson

Marina Johnson

Marina was born and raised in Caserta, Italy, and obtained her Master Degree in English and French literature, specializing in history and cultural studies, at the Universita' L' Orientale in Naples. After graduation, she spent a period of study in England and of traveling to over 25 countries before settling down in San Diego with her family in 2019.

Mother of three kids, she cultivated her interest in Education volunteering for her kids classes. Marina has been teaching Italian language, literature and writing to children and adults. She joined the Italian American Academy of San Diego faculty in 2019 and taught 1st and 2nd grade classes.

Her focus is to make the class fun and interactive.

Maria Luisa Sacchi

Maria Luisa Sacchi

Maria Luisa was born in the beautiful and vibrant Milan where she lived until she moved to California in 2012. She spent the first 6 years in Silicon Valley where her third son was born and then settled down in San Diego. After Liceo Classico (high school in Classical Studies) she earned her Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Electronics Engineering at Politecnico di Milano. Few years later she obtained her Executive Master in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan.

She worked for more than ten years in a semiconductor company in the field of business development and marketing and then she became an entrepreneur creating a website for parents (Whymum.it) and few e-commerce activities.

Becoming a mom let her realize her deep love for kids and education, that’s why she studied Child Development at the Foothills College in Palo Alto with the aim of becoming a preschool teacher. Her dream was to open an Italian school in Palo Alto. Her greatest passions are writing, reading, painting and playing piano and guitar. She regularly write on her website and she won several awards in Poetry competitions. She is in the process of getting the CEDILS certification to teach Italian as a foreign language. She feels blessed to be part of this fantastic project and team.

Francesca Galimi

Francesca Galimi

Francesca was born in San Diego, California, and grew up bilingual, speaking Italian at home with her parents and younger sister. She was a student at the Italian American Academy of San Diego for 8 years, from 4th to 11th grade, and took the AP Italian Language and Culture Exam in her last year. She graduated high school in 2021 and is now studying Biology in college, though she also loves anthropology and math.

She loves learning new languages, and after having taken Spanish in high school she plans on learning French. Outside of academics, she enjoys reading, sewing, and trying new foods. She loves visiting her family in Italy and being able to experience the one of a kind culture. She hopes to inspire students to love learning and to love Italian language and culture as she does!

Ilana Battaglia

Ilana Battaglia

Ilana was born and lived the first few years of her life in Catania, Italy. She was raised in a bilingual, multicultural family which helped her to develop an open mind and a love for the diversity in the world. She graduated from a performing arts high school, with honors in the arts and dance.

Although being raised in San Diego, Italy was always in her heart. She moved back to Italy after finishing high school to rediscover her home town of Catania. While there, she discovered her love for teaching. She enjoys teaching languages because it gives her the opportunity to share not only the beauty and complexity of the language, but also its culture and traditions and the opportunity to continue to grow and learn from the experience of her students.

Ilana has had the opportunity to work with both children and adults teaching English and Italian in the States and in Italy. She was able to enrich her skills by completing certificate courses with the Oxford Teacher’s Academy as well as The Canadian Institute of English and Applied Neuroscience. She enjoys learning languages, dancing, cooking, traveling, helping others and spending time with her family and friends. She is happy to embark on this journey with the Italian School of San Diego and looks forward to meeting you soon!

Mauro Brattich

Mauro Brattich

Mauro is an Italian native from Genoa. There he grew up, studied and worked until relocating to California about forty-three years ago. Mauro graduated from UC Berkeley in Naval Architecture-Offshore Engineering and worked in the shipyard industry in San Diego for thirty-one years until retirement.

He lives in San Diego County with his family and returns to Italy every year for about three months visiting family and friends. Mauro has been an avid sailor since his youth, he loves cooking, gardening, boat building and he is versed in several other arts and crafts.

He started tutoring Italian during his years at CAL and found the experience of transferring his love for the Italian language to others very rewarding. Lately, taking advantage of the newfound spare time he has been able to return to this activity with new energy.

Emanuela Rossi

Emanuela Rossi

Emanuela was born in Milan and lived in various Italian regions. She is interested in foreign languages, neurolinguistic, anthropology and earned a Degree in Foreign Languages and a Master Degree in Foreign Languages for International Communication (Laurea Specialistica) at the University of Verona in Italy. She has lived, studied and worked in France, Spain, Greece, Australia and South Africa. In 2014, she moved to San Diego. She believes in continuous learning and takes advantage of all the opportunities to learn new skills. She is very active and has an enthusiastic personality. With hobbies like hiking, camping, woodworking and many others, she thinks that days are always too short.

Daniela Gnerre

Daniela Gnerre

Daniela was born in Napoli, but grew up in Rovigo, Barcelona (Spain), and Rome. She moved to the US in 1998, and became an American citizen in 2012. Daniela’s native language is Italian, but she is fluent in Spanish and English, and has a scholastic knowledge of French.

She obtained her Laurea in Economia at l’Università degli studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, and worked as a translator at the Ministero della Sanità.

After a couple of years in Berkeley, where her two sons were born, her family moved to Massachusetts, then to the Silicon Valley, before finally settling in the San Diego area.

She became involved in the schools to better understand the American school system. She started out as a volunteer, both in class and in after school programs, to later commit to a full time TA position. Daniela also taught Italian and Spanish in after school programs for both elementary school students and preschoolers, and at various adult enrichment classes.

Viviana Maura Ferretto

Viviana Maura Ferretto

Viviana was born and raised in the province of Monza, Italy. Her dream as a teenager was to travel the world and for this reason she graduated at linguistic highschool and started discovering new places as soon as she had the occasion and still does the same.

She obtained her Master Degree in Economics and International Finance at Università degli Studi di Milano and she immediately started her career in Investment Banking in downtown Milan. Thanks to her job, she had the opportunity to work and live in Portugal and Poland for a few months and she loved all the aspects of both countries, cultures and people.

At the end of 2022 she moved to Southern California with her family and she immediately felt at home.

During her youth Viviana has always had a passion for teaching kids and teenagers, tutoring during her university years. She is now very excited to teach her mother tongue and the culture of the most beautiful country in the world at the Italian School of San Diego.

Our staff

Iris Zonca - Social media manager

Iris Zonca

Iris, Maura and Andrea’s daughter, is Italian-English bilingual, she attended Italian classes at the Italian American Academy of San Diego and attended 4th grade in Italy. She also took Advanced Placement Italian in May 2023 and passed it with a grade of 5/5.

She gained experience on Instagram during the pandemic growing her audience organically to 3000 followers. Iris manages the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for the Italian school of San Diego.