TAMPA, FLORIDA – To establish a ministry for Hellenes Abroad with a significant budget and specialized staff, to systematically register Greek teachers around the world, and to train teachers to current needs and capabilities, were some of the proposals heard during the second world teleconference held on August 22 on the initiative of the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators, whose president is Stella Kokolis.
The event took place, as announced, in collaboration with the director of the Education Office of the Archdiocese, Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis, and professor at the University of Western Macedonia, Dr. Eleni Griva, as well as the participation of the organization Hellenic Paideia of America and other organizations.
On behalf of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Fr. Grigorios Stamkopoulos conveyed "His Eminence's concern for the Greek language, education and Greek culture in the Diaspora, and his support for any such initiative." He also spoke about the important work of Archbishop Elpidophoros so far, who, as he said, knows the problems of teachers "and is looking for solutions." He also noted that despite the pandemic and the deepest economic crisis, the archbishop and the Department of Greek Education, together with all teachers and organizations "are trying to organize and continue in this great work of Greek language education."
Secretary General for Public Diplomacy and Greeks Abroad Ioannis Chrysoulakis, who was in Kastelorizo at that time, assured the teachers that he understands their fears and anxieties. "You create, you intervene, you keep Orthodoxy alive," he noted. He also referred to the online Greek language learning platform StaEllinika.com, which has already been adopted by the Archdiocese of America. He even referred to various other initiatives.
Chrysoulakis noted that the former Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad Antonis Diamataris had many of the ideas implemented by the Secretariat General of Greeks Abroad and contributed substantially to their formation. Concluding, he thanked Ms. Kokolis, describing the teleconference as "impressive and magnificent.”
Kokolis said that "since I came to America, I have stood as a soldier in favor of the Greek language." She thanked Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for his interest in the Greek Diaspora, and welcomed the former Deputy Foreign Minister Antonis Diamataris as a participant in the teleconference wishing to continue the work he had begun, while referring to the experiences he has in the Greek Diaspora and asking him to always be a helper of the project. She also said that the Archdiocese "is the beginning and the bond of Hellenism."
"We are united by the idea of the perpetuation of our language and cultural values, we are united by this field, which is called Greek Education," noted Kokolis.
She then made extensive reference to the installation, months ago, on the initiative of the Federation, of the bust of Ioannis Giannopoulos in the courtyard of the historic school he created in St. Augustine, Florida.
The former Deputy Foreign Minister and current Advisor to the Publishers of The National Herald Mr. Diamataris, referring to the long-term contributions of Kokolis, highlighted that "we need people with a spark, with the belief, with knowledge and character.”
Diamataris presented a strategy for Greek Education. And he argued that Hellenes Abroad change rapidly, which is why the Greek community must also adapt. "Language is the bridge, the connecting link and should not be lost," he said, noting that with today's technology, this is easier than ever. Speaking about today's online education, he also referred to the programs of the University of Vancouver thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, as well as the huge current opportunities that technology offers in all fields. However, "teachers will always be needed," said Diamataris.
He also said that "Hellenism, the Church, cannot survive if the Greek language is lost." Diamataris also spoke about an opportunity with Mr. Mitsotakis as Prime Minister, Mr. Elpidophoros as Archbishop and with the other Archbishops in areas where there is a Greek community. He also said that communities should be based on the knowledge and experience of teachers, who are experts in Education, while emphasizing the need for the existence of educational institutions, as well as the best remuneration for teachers.
Diamataris spoke in particular about the importance of cooperation between the homeland and the Greek Diaspora, and supported the need to create a Ministry of Hellenes Abroad, with a significant budget and permanent qualified staff, in which all responsibilities will be concentrated.
In conclusion, Diamataris called on the Greek Diaspora to do what is right because otherwise, "at the end of the day, no one else will do it."
Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis, noted that "the Greek language, history, the Church, our culture, are what unite us and concern us." He also supported the need for similar meetings, and spoke about the sacrifices of teachers in order to serve a greater purpose. "The archbishop believes very much in language, in education and will do what he can to strengthen it, to create more schools and more programs."
The president of the Archdiocese’s High Council for Greek Education in the U.S., Athena Kromidas, noted that “with perseverance, patience, vision and unshakable faith in our duty, joining our forces and with the flame of our soul, we can and must fight to support our teachers, our schools, our communities, the Greek Diaspora.”
Kromidas assured that the High Council together with the Education Office of the Archdiocese are fighting for education and announcements for their work will be made soon.
Dr. Eleni Griva congratulated the teachers everywhere for the work they perform. She said that the Greek language education in the Diaspora has a wide typology of models, as well as varied and heterogeneous profiles of teachers in the schools. In this regard, she suggested a systematic recording of the needs of teachers who teach Greek as a second or foreign language. She also supported the possibility of increasing the number of students, using modern technology, and for students from different countries to create their own forums with which to communicate in Greek. At the same time, non-Greek students could be attracted to learning the Greek language, which could be linked to incentives for tourism and cultural tourism in Greece.
Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas Raptakis spoke in favor of the issues that concern the teachers outside of Greece. He also noted that the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of 1821 should emphasize the importance of the Greek language, the importance of which he praised.
Tarpon Springs Mayor Chrysostomos (Chris) Alahouzos referred to the importance of charter schools. He also thanked the teachers for their work and referred to the partnership between St. Petersburg College of Tarpon Springs with the University of the Aegean, as well as the expected partnership between the city’s high school and the high school of Kalymnos.
Greek Teachers' Association of New York President Meropi Kyriakou said that coordinated efforts are needed to address the problems of isolated teachers, while calling on teachers to present ideas and work for better networking between them.
Eleftheria Oikouta, the director of the Greek School of the Holy Cross community in Brooklyn, NY, described the teleconference as "impressive" and referred to the difficulties in the preparation for the new school year, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Teachers from the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, Argyrokastro, Mariupol in Ukraine, Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa, and Constantinople also spoke.
Dr. Griva introduced the speakers while the last part was presented by the author, Stavros Marmarinos.