Maybe it has something to do with her upbringing in Rome, but for a high school Spanish teacher, Raffaella Barnes has a level of style and sophistication all her own. Born the U. S. to Italian parents, Barnes appreciates the finer things in life – good food, well-made clothing, and quality education.
Her sense of style attracted the attention of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which made her the subject of one of its “Fashion Flash” columns in 2009. So far, she’s been the only faculty or staff member who can claim this honor (it’s time to up your game, Mr. Hennessey).
Barnes lived in Italy during her elementary school years, and she is fluent in Italian and Spanish. Of the two, she prefers to teach Spanish. However, teaching wasn’t her first career choice. She studied pre-med as an undergrad at Canisius College in Buffalo. Everything changed when she worked as an intern during her junior year teaching Spanish at a local grade school. She enjoyed it so much, she decided to switch her major to education.
“My mother and aunt were both teachers, and they were a big inspiration to me,” says Barnes.
After graduating, she moved back to Rome, this time with a husband and two young daughters. She worked in a school teaching English to Italians, but it was a difficult adjustment for the family, so they moved back to the U. S. and settled in Buffalo. She got a full-time job teaching Spanish at Canisius High School, the Jesuit high school in Buffalo.
“That’s where I fell in love with Ignatian spirituality,” says Barnes. She worked at Canisius from 1991 until 2001, when the family relocated to Cleveland. Her daughters attended Gesu grade school while Barnes was a sub in Euclid, before being hired at Saint Ignatius.
Besides teaching Spanish, Barnes is the point person for the student and teacher exchange program with Saint Ignatius’s sister high school in Barcelona. She also served as an adult moderator for the mission trip to El Salvador two summers ago. In February, she will be one of the adults attending the Senior Movie Retreat.
Barnes grew up watching her mother, a gourmet home cook, prepare delicious meals for the family. She loves to cook, too, especially during the cold winter months when so much time is spent indoors. Now her daughters, ages 24 and 21, have learned to cook from their grandmother. They return to Italy often, staying at the family’s home in the Adriatic coast town of Pescara, where Barnes’s mother lives part of the year.
Knowing that Saint Ignatius students also have an interest in good food, Barnes started the Culinary Club, in which students go through recipes, cook and visit restaurants in the surrounding Ohio City neighborhood. With so many excellent restaurants, plus the West Side Market, it’s the ideal environment for food lovers.
She enjoys teaching Saint Ignatius students because they are easygoing and appreciate her sense of humor. The students, in turn, respond to her energetic personality.
“I had Ms. Barnes for Spanish III my junior year. She was a great teacher and did an excellent job making sure that her students understood the material,” says Tommy Stuhldreher, a senior. “Her ability to make class enjoyable and her sense of humor made it a class that all of her students looked forward to.”