Magazine Feature / People

Mother-daughter pair takes turns teaching each other

Jessica Deal (BA ’03, JD ‘06) had enough reasons to be nervous teaching an Italian culture course at DU’s Women’s College.

It was the first class she taught. It was her own concept. And, it was the first Italian studies course offered in the college.

But one factor made this whole teaching thing a bit more nerve-wracking: Her mom enrolled in the class.

“It could be the Pope in my class, but my mom … she’s my hero,” Jessica Deal says of her mother, Elizabeth Deal.

“Seeing Jessica standing in front of the class as the professor and my daughter was a totally out-of-body experience,” Elizabeth says.

Elizabeth works as an executive assistant in DU’s Office of Undergraduate Admission and has been working on her bachelor’s degree since 2000. Elizabeth Deal started working at DU to help Jessica afford a college education by using the University’s tuition waiver benefit, but soon decided to pursue her own degree and enrolled at the Women’s College.

Elizabeth took the Italian culture course because her mother — Jessica’s grandmother — immigrated to the United States from Italy.

Jessica admits to feeling a few jitters when she saw that her mother had enrolled in the class but found she was getting more comfortable as the class progressed. As for Elizabeth, she was proud to receive instruction from her daughter, though she might not have been as intimidated by the professor as the average student.

“I’m able to be more frank than other students would be with her,” Elizabeth says.

“She’s Italian,” Jessica says of her mother. “She’s a natural communicator.”

Mother and daughter have bonded over a shared love of Italian culture, film, folklore and language through the years.

They also share taste for the cuisine, which they say is very important. Anything with marinara and eggplant is the best, they agree. And that’s the sign of a true bond, Jessica says with a laugh.

Their common interest in Italian culture should help them navigate the sometimes difficult relationship between student and teacher.

Elizabeth is currently enrolled in two classes — Women in Italian Films and Legal Literacy — taught by Jessica.

“Now that I can teach in front of her,” Jessica says, “I can teach in front of anyone.”

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