The Pinewood American International School of Thessaloniki was founded as an American elementary/middle school for Kindergarten through Grade 8 in 1950 and is now a thriving PreK-12 school.
Preparing for the new semester in Greece’s fabulous Halkidiki region, the School’s president, Dr. Roxanne Giampapa, was delighted to share with The National Herald her excitement over the new chapter in the School’s history, which just became formally affiliated with the renowned Anatolia College and is embarking on the construction of brand new facilities on the latter’s campus.
Giampapa, who is from Ohio with a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Ohio State, and who also studied at Yale, has a name that sounds Greek, but it is actually Sicilian – close enough culturally and genetically for her Philhellenism to strike quick and deep roots once she moved to Hellas.
“I came here 12 years ago and thought I would stay for a year,” as a teacher. Despite the Greek crisis, she stayed after falling in love with school and country.
“The school is a gem, a diamond in the rough with a lot of potential,” she said. The Head of School position opened four years after she arrived and Giampapa embraced the challenges and opportunities it presented.
In her “President’s letter,” on the School’s website Giampapa notes Pinewood “is an independent, non-profit PK-12 school offering an internationally-enriched American college preparatory curriculum and International Baccalaureate Diploma Program to students from the international and local communities.”
Pinewood has created “a stimulating, multicultural learning environment that emphasizes service, respect for ethical values and awareness of local culture,” according to its website, and an environment and curriculum that challenges children “to develop, embrace and utilize the 4 C’s: communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.”
Giampapa emphasizes that Pinewood is focused on both academic excellence and preparing students for exciting but also challenging times.
In a world with disturbing news 24/7, she said that “we teach our students that world history has ups and downs, volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity” but teachers also show them there are areas where “it is getting better in the long term. The 4 C’s address” all those dimensions.
“One fourth of our curriculum pertains to content,” Giampapa said, “and one fourth teaches how to think critically, to make decisions and be judicious, and another fourth is about building character – we want students to “do the right thing when nobody is looking.”
The remaining part of the program is also character related. “It’s building that resilience, that grit,” she said of the vital intangibles that well-being in a tough world demands. “We tell them ‘don’t give up. Yes, there are times when you are going to fail, but take that as an iteration of success…you can learn and gain from it and keep going.”
That is why the School introduced a series of courses on entrepreneurship. “The students go through these processes and they do fail – but we teach them how to fail and how to use that to figure out how to be successful – and not only entrepreneurship about making money but also social entrepreneurship, how you can be socially conscious and effective. We are also becoming an eco-school and we practice what we preach: we are going plastic-free.”
BIRTH AND GROWTH OF A NOBLE SCHOOL
There are now 370 students at Pinewood representing 49 nationalities. In its early years the School operated on the campus of Anatolia College, and later at the American Farm School. In 1962 Thessaloniki International High School was founded and a new building large enough for all grade levels K-12 was constructed on the Anatolia campus. A new campus they were proud to call their own opened in August 2008 in the Thessaloniki suburb of Thermi.
Despite the school being on the Campus of Anatolia College for about 45 years – it continued to have dormitories there even when it moved its educational facilities elsewhere – the school was not affiliated with Anatolia College in the past, but an ever-deepening relationship of mutual respect prepared the way for Pinewood’s Board to make a momentous decision.
Giampapa said that after 10 years of “steady and strong growth we explored different options” for the future, “and along the way Anatolia suggested forming an affiliation.”
Discussions over the past year bore fruit in an agreement, she said, “whereby we remain Pinewood, our own entity with our own U.S. license, Middle StatesAssociation of Colleges and Schools accreditation, and offering the American High School diploma. So the fundamental aspects of the school will not change, but we will build new facilities on the Anatolia campus and we will share a Board of Trustees – the Anatolia Board members are now trustees on our Pinewood Board.”
Giampapa is looking forward to the results this Fall of the architectural design competition that has been initiated for Middle School and High School buildings expected to open in 2021.
The two institutions’ shared interests will fuel new shared visions for the future of the two distinct but complementary schools – Pinewood is an American-style international school with instruction in English while Anatolia is a Greek school adhering to the Greek national curriculum with every class in Greek.
Culturally and intellectually, the students and faculty will benefit from cooperation and cross-pollination – and friendships that will last a lifetime.