PAWTUKET, RI – The National Herald chose as Educator of the Year Panagiota Vastis, a longtime educator of the Greek language, history, culture, and dance, and of the Greek Orthodox Faith. She is Director of the Afternoon Greek School of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Parish in Pawtucket, RI.
In a moving ceremony commemorating the Feast of the Three Hierarchs and the Greek Letters on January 31, Vastis was presented with a special plague on behalf of Publisher-Editor Antonis H. Diamataris and the entire TNH family.
Presiding Priest V. Rev. Phillip Zymaris, who is also a professor of liturgical theology at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, spoke about the significance of Hellenic paideia and the Greek language, and praised Vastis for her dedication and enthusiasm for teaching.
Vastis thanked TNH and said “the honor doesn’t belong only to me but to the entire community. It also belongs to my dear colleagues and to all Greek school teachers who teach with dedication and love the children the Greek language.”
The students presented a beautiful program with poems and short narrations – which they delivered in fluent Greek – about the Three Hierarchs: John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory the Theologian, who are the protectors of the Greek Letters.
Vastis especially thanked Diamataris and TNH for the honor of being chosen Educator of the Year.
Vastis cut the congratulatory cake while surrounded by her husband, George, her daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, and many former students.
Vastis was born in the Greek village of Sellasia in Laconia. She graduated from Sparta High School and attended the Arsakeion Academy in Psihikon in Athens, which was the most prestigious institution for aspiring teachers. During her second year there, she met and married George, who had been in the United States and was visiting his native Sparta.
Upon her graduation, they went to Boston where he worked at the acclaimed Lechmere Department Store in Cambridge.
Vastis started teaching at the Cadmus Greek School in Dorchester, and then started teaching in two schools in Belmont and Medford. At the time, the Cathedral was flourishing in every way and it had seven Greek schools in various locations of the greater Boston area and the suburbia. The priest at the Cathedral was the late John Zanetos.
After ten years, the Vastis family moved to Ohio because George Vastis was hired in by the American Tourister company.
Vastis’ excellent reputation followed her everywhere, and shortly after the move to Ohio she started teaching at the Greek School of the Saint. Demetrios parish in Rocky River. Rev. Peter Metallinos, a very respected and learned clergyman, was the presiding priest of the parish and the Director of the Greek School. In 1983, Vastis returned to New England and started teaching at Assumption.
“We have very good, well-mannered, smart children, and also excellent parents and grandparents,” Vastis says of her adoring students and their families. “We have a historic obligation to continue and perpetuate out rich and unique Greek language and Hellenic Heritage.”
If she was to start her life all over again she said “I would become a teacher again. Teaching is in my heart.”