Teaching English the Italian way

Michelangelo's statue of David, pasta and soccer are just hints of the culture Kate Reavey and her family want to experience in Florence, Italy, this spring.

Reavey, a Sequim resident and English professor at Peninsula College, was accepted into an exchange program allowing her to teach in Italy for 10 weeks.

From March 24 to early June, she will escort 18 community college students from Washington and California - including Greg Robinson from Sequim - and her family to the heart of Tuscan life.

One-third of the group never have traveled internationally, and this is the first time a Peninsula College professor was invited on this Italian exchange, Reavey said.

She and her husband, Tom Harris, have looked for an opportunity to teach overseas for some time. The couple was selected for the trip more than a year ago, but a different program was funded first.

Reavey attributes her background as an instructor and adviser as reasons she was chosen. The Washington Community College Consortium for Study Abroad, the group making this trip possible, was looking for a professor who could lead effectively as well as work with the students in making smart decisions with their time, Reavey said.

Immersed in Italy

Reavey will teach creative writing and world literature, with emphasis on Italian writing and environment.

"I'm excited to get students into the Renaissance and modern work," Reavey said.

"It will be a rich experience. I can't imagine a better place to experience studying abroad."

Students can choose courses and will take an Italian language course.

Reavey's children Liam, 10, and Maeve, 13, will take language courses in Florence and have been learning Italian.

"They are picking up the language real quick. The younger they are the easier it is," Reavey said.

Harris feels differently about his Italian verbal skills.

"Piccolo," he said jokingly, which means "little."

Harris, a teacher at Five Acre School in Sequim, will home school their children while overseas. They plan to take many field trips.

The family and students are staying in Santa Croce, which is within walking distance of many major sites such as the Uffizi Gallery.

One of Reavey's goals is to attend many nighttime poetry readings.

"Art is just the climate we'll be in," Reavey said.

Peninsula to Peninsula

"Some people think I'm a tour guide, but it's going to be straight study abroad," Reavey said.

Students will correspond with family and friends back home via personal letters and e-mail for the creative writing class.

Reavey says this is an easy way to keep a travel log.

"They are all going to be immersed and really have an understanding leading to those 'Aha' moments," Reavey said.

Maeve and Liam are active in the Olympic Youth Soccer League and hope to find a local club to join in Florence. Harris said the children will join pick-up games at local recreation fields on a regular basis and should be able to connect with a local league.

"I hope to feel like a local when I'm there," Maeve said.

Harris and Reavey have been to Italy. Harris visited Rome for a three-month exchange program while a senior in high school.

Reavey visited when she was 8. She compares her experience to the film "National Lampoon's European Vacation," with her father in the Chevy Chase role. Both tried taking their families to as many countries as possible in a small amount of time.

Colosseum of learning

Reavey and Harris are excited about their professional development teaching and learning in Italy.

While there, both will investigate the concepts of agricultural and environmental sustainability.

Harris, also a board member of Friends of the Fields, will take Italy's sustainable ideas and bring them back to Sequim to apply them.

"It's a good lesson on how

to maintain a viable agriculture over 2,000 years - something Sequim has had a problem with in just 100 years," Harris said.

"We're looking forward to finding inspiration in this ancient city," Reavey said, "where culture and art are as vital as the wild lands and climate are free."

What are they looking forward to:

Maeve: Learning more about the Roman Empire, writing a lot and improving her Italian

Liam: Playing more soccer, seeing art, making friends and eating great-tasting pasta.

Kate: Helping her students experience the best exchange possible and nighttime poetry readings

Tom: Riding a lot of trains

Reach Matthew Nash at

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