Prior to arriving at Highland Park High School two years ago, Maria Barbanente had already blazed a trail where life's adventures had added depth to her linguistic skills. The daughter of native Italians from the Puglia region, Barbanente had a master's degree in education, and a certification in Spanish, by the time she arrived in Madrid, Spain to teach English for two years.
It was hardly her first time in Europe. "Learning the Italian language and having been fortunate enough to travel to Italy every summer as a child, I was able to further explore the Italian culture and build relationships with family members and friends," recalls Barbanente, a Chicago native. She also studied in Rome for a semester as a college junior.