Friend from Italy

Marilee Davis of Sylacauga and Barbara Hennig, of Como, Italy, met on a cruise six years ago. Hennig is visiting Sylacauga to learn about the education system and court system and working on speaking English as part of her job requirement in Italy. From left are Davis, Hennig and Sylacauga Mayor Doug Murphree.

A cruise six years ago began a friendship allowing an Italian school teacher to visit Sylacauga to improve her English and learn about our education system.

“I met Barbara on a South American cruise six years ago,” said Marilee Davis, a judicial file clerk for the Sylacauga City Municipal Court. “We stayed in touch through Skype.”

Barbara Hennig is from Como, Italy. She has a doctorate degree in physical education from the University of Milan and teaches P.E. at Institute of San Carpoforo, a private Catholic school for children ages 3 to 14.

“The school is becoming an international school, so we are transitioning to teaching in English instead of Italian,” Hennig said.

This is not Hennig’s first trip across the ocean. She and her husband spent a 15-day vacation traveling through the states five years ago.

“I didn’t realize how much land there is here,” she said. “They said we would spend five days at Yellowstone National Park and I thought, 'What could be there to see for five days?' I thought perhaps one day. But when we got there, I thought a month would be a good amount of time to spend there.”

Hennig said Institute of San Carpoforo was built in the 1500s. There are four nuns who teach from the Order of Assumption, which also has schools in Massachusetts and New Mexico.

“I contacted them about visiting their schools, but their vacation time is different than Italy’s and the timing was off,” she said.

So instead, Hennig came to Sylacauga July 9. She will head back across the ocean Sept. 1.

“Sylacauga is a good place,” she said. “I am checking out library books on elementary school P.E. to help with my English.”

Hennig is also learning about the court system through Davis.

“Barbara is a delightful person and we are honored she decided to spend time with this court during her time in America,” said Ken Sisk, chief administrative officer for the Sylacauga Municipal Court. “It’s an opportunity for us to learn from each other and to enjoy new friendships.”

Sylacauga Mayor Doug Murphree said he appreciates the court staff sharing knowledge of Alabama’s criminal justice system with Hennig.

“We are so pleased to have Barbara visit Sylacauga,” he said. “I hope her experience here is as gainful to her as it is to us, and I hope we are contributing information which will be helpful to Barbara in her future.”

In addition to learning about the court system, Hennig will also shadow P.E. teachers at B.B. Comer Memorial School and possibly other schools as well.

“It is good to be here,” she said.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at