By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 21, 2016 at 10:10 AM

On Tuesday night, Milwaukee French Immersion School Principal Gina Bianchi was honored for her work at this MPS school – which exceeds expectations according to its most recent DPI report card – by the French government.

At a ceremony at the school – located in the former Steuben Junior High at 2360 N. 52nd St. – Bianchi was presented with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) Tuesday by the French Consulate Denis Quenelle – on behalf of French national education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem – during the school's winter concert.

Bianchi has been principal at the school – where she got her start as a teacher – for three years. MFIS was established in 1978 and has been located in a few buildings since. It is the state’s only French immersion school.

According to MPS, The Palmes Academiques is a national order of France for distinguished academic figures in the world of culture and education. The order was established in 1808 by Emperor Napoleon. Bianchi was nominated by Anne Leplae, executive director of Alliance Francaise de Milwaukee, who also is a recipient of the award.

"(Ms. Bianchi's) passion for French language and culture as well as for teaching is evident as soon as you meet her," wrote Leplae in her nomination letter.

And in a surprise turn of events, Mayor Tom Barrett also appeared at the ceremony and declared yesterday "Gina Bianchi Day" in Milwaukee.

Tres awesome. Félicitations, Madame Bianchi!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.