PORT WASHINGTON, NY – As Greek education has been a subject of great interest following the Archdiocesan Education Conference, The National Herald takes a look at the success of the Archangel Michael Church (AMC) Greek Language Institute (GLI) in Port Washington and its new curriculum. Eleni Stavropoulou Capous is currently the Principal of the Archangel Michael GLI which proudly employs teachers that have been trained in Greek higher education institutions, such as the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, or hold New York State teacher certifications. Dr. Vicky Giouroukakis, President of the Greek School Board this year, shared the information about the AMC GLI with TNH.
Founded in 1983, the GLI was housed originally at the location of the first church in Roslyn Heights and then moved with the second church in 2012 to a new building at 100 Fairway Drive in Port Washington, NY. The Greek Afternoon School provides comprehensive afternoon classes from Pre-K through the 8th Grade with preparation for the Comprehensive Examination in Modern Greek. The Comprehensive Examination in Modern Greek is a foreign language achievement test that assesses student proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing Modern Greek. In the year 2000, the school had around 80 students.
Today, there are over 250 students in grades Pre-K-8 enrolled in the three programs spanning four days. Most of the students typically come from neighboring towns but many also commute from Queens. Until this year, families had a limited choice of programs. This year, the school added two additional programs by demand from the parents, Wednesdays 4:15-7:15 PM or Fridays 4:15-7:15 PM. The one-day programs were implemented to offer families more flexibility and options and to accommodate their busy schedules.
The goal of the GLI language programs is to enhance the children’s bond to their ancestry and culture through the Greek language. The school uses the Papaloizos book series (Greek123.com). The curriculum and workbooks used are in accordance with the basic guidelines and regulations of the Archdiocese. The curriculum builds reading, speaking and grammar skills, teaches the origins of Greek traditions and customs, and introduces historic sites and landmarks in Greece.
Upon reflecting on curriculum and instruction recently, the Greek School Board (GSB) and Father John Lardas saw a need to modify and enrich the curricula in order to appeal to the new generation of students (2nd, 3rd, 4th generation, some in mixed families where one parent is a non-Greek) with varying backgrounds, needs, interests, and levels of Greek language proficiency.
This year, with the support of the priest and Parish Council, the GSB set three initiatives for the language program: a) add more conversation to daily lessons; b) differentiate instruction; c) infuse cultural elements into the curriculum. These initiatives reflect best practices and are supported by research in teaching a foreign language. More authentic conversation through skits, dialogue, role plays, helps students learn to communicate in the target language for real-world purposes.
Also important is that teachers individualize learning for each student to meet their language needs. For example, in one fourth grade class, some students who are on a lower grade level are grouped together and complete modified worksheets. The challenge is making instruction engaging and appealing to students who are coming to Greek school after a full-day of instruction at their day school.
The teachers try to attend staff development seminars whenever they are offered by the Archdiocese to learn new methodologies for effectively teaching Greek as a foreign language.
All the grades receive instruction in Greek culture through various interactive activities in the Greek language that incorporate art, music, and dance. The school hired Vangelis Chaziroglou from St. Demetrios of Astoria to teach language through art and song. Students create beautiful artwork and learn songs with themes that are connected to the main teachers’ lessons through the medium of the Greek language. Nick Mavromihalis teaches dance and uses Greek in his instruction. Children perform these songs and dances at the assemblies, the PTA-sponsored fundraiser called the Glendi, as well as the end of year/graduation programs.
The hope is that by infusing cultural components into the curriculum, students will both develop their language skills and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich traditions, customs, arts, achievements of Hellenism. Another component that makes the GLI special is the sense of community that the GLI has created. The church leadership, the Greek School Board, the PTA, the teachers and staff, the administration, all work together in a collaborative spirit for the common goal of educating our children in the Greek language and culture. They know that AMC GLI is a special place for everyone.
So far, parents and students are pleased with the results of the new curriculum. With Archbishop Elpidophoros’ new push for Greek schools in the diaspora to open and not close, it is imperative that the members of the Community work for and support our Greek schools in order to maintain the Greek language, culture, and heritage.
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