GREEK OF THE WEEK | AMERICAN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS OF ATHENS PRESIDENT - DR.PEGGY PELONIS
Interview by: Yanna Darilis
Greek of the Week: President of ACS: Dr.Peggy Pelonis Ed.D, MS, MBA, LFT
Dr.Pelonis, the American Communities Schools of Athens is an International American High School, K-12 , located in Chalandri Athens, Greece; can you please tell us a little more about what makes ACS different, what is the philosophy of the school, and give us some brief information about the staff:
ACS Athens is an international school with 65 different nationalities. However, our educational philosophy is based on American principles and values, mainly this means that we believe that all students can learn and thrive. We also believe in providing students with choices within their educational curriculum so, our students receive an American Diploma but also have the choice to receive a second diploma; the International Baccalaureate. They can also take Advanced Placement courses as well as additional courses to receive a Greek equivalency diploma. Our faculty are mostly American trained and the language of instruction is English. Our students pride themselves for being able to feel at home anywhere in the world after attending ACS Athens because they have access to young people from so many different nationalities, mindsets beliefs and they come together under one roof here at ACS Athens and develop lifelong relationships.
Dr.Pelonis, ACS has been recognized as a leader in digital schooling, that has been ahead of the curve during the global pandemic. Can you enlighten us about what steps and decisions you took in order to adopt to this crisis, so that your students would not skip a beat in their studies?
At ACS Athens we believe in 'reflective practitioners'. This means that our faculty are continuously studying 'best practice' approaches to teaching and remain at the forefront of innovation and educational developments. Therefore, knowing that technology is becoming a big part of education and will continue as such in the near future, we had been preparing via the I2Flex model. This model aims to train young people in the development of 21st century skills; technological know-how, communication skills, problem solving, collaborating, innovation. I2flex means- independent, inquiry based, flexible learning. We had been training our teachers to develop courses on line on an educational platform called Moodle. Likewise our students were familiar with online practice. Thus, when the pandemic hit, we were able to transition on to online teaching-learning literally in one night.
These are challenging times for everyone, how are your student’s responding to the crisis and this new way of learning?
Like all students, they believe, there is no real replacement for face to face teaching/learning. However, they have adjusted very well and are working hard to cover the curriculum while working on asynchronous projects and even participating is community service. I would say, that these students are exhibiting great resiliency and I am proud to watch how well they have adjusted.
In your professional opinion, is the cure of shut downs worse than the illness/virus?
Shut down seems to be a reactive antidote not necessarily a cure to the virus. This is so because we are living unprecedented times and no one really seems to know what to do. We are witnessing varied views of leadership at a time when we need to be united. This indicates that no one is really sure what will work so leaders are prescribing what they believe to be the best case scenario. Nonetheless it all comes at a cost; psychological cost that will eventually manifest as the lockdown continues. I believe we will witness significant post-traumatic stress when life resumes some form of normality.
ACS offers many innovative programs that prepares students for the world on the level of awareness and even inspires initiatives after graduating high school. Can you share some information about your programs and what the purpose was when designing them?
Because technology, Artificial intelligence, robotics are all moving at light speed and we are witnessing rapid, continuous change on multiple levels, it is easy to get lost within this frenzy of development and innovation. Young people are often questioning many traditional mindsets that provided purpose for past generations. Today, there are invisible and visible enemies everywhere; threats to safety and wellbeing and success does not necessarily mean happiness. It is important to provide a platform in schools where students can be guided to self-reflect and connect to a higher purpose; We use the Sustainable Development Goals as outlined by the United Nations as a way to help students understand that through their actions and ways of being in the world they can either contribute to a better world, contribute to a worse world or remain neutral and not contribute. When children learn to self-reflect on their actions and ways of being in the world, their actions become more intentional rather than based on habit and therefore unconscious. In this sense developing conscious citizens who will be ethical decision makers and critical thinkers who consider the good of the whole and thus contribute to better living and better life on the planet is just as important as developing knowledgeable, skillful individuals
How do you see the trend moving for the education sector? What are the exciting things to look forward to and what may be pitfalls for the new generation?
The virtual teaching environment will continue to develop and will remain part of teaching and learning to some degree. While this will continue to connect people from all over the world and provide access to information as never before, human relationships will be challenged. It is so much easier these days for young people to exchange messages via social media platforms rather than struggle through the discomfort and awkwardness of getting to know one another and getting past differences. This trend towards seemingly social relationships will contribute further to isolation and loneliness because as we know we are social beings and we need to interact with others.
At the helm of ACS as the new President, what are some of your future plans for the school?
Our virtual environment is growing and we have been developing courses beyond the ACS Athens curriculum that will be available to students across the globe. These include virtual classes for Greek language, Greek culture and Greek mythology. Furthermore, via numerous partnerships with higher educational institutions in the USA and Europe we engage in continuous conversations and programs aimed at bridging the gap between the K-12 institutions such as ours and the higher educational environments. Our faculty engage in continuous research that result in professional publications and many hold higher level degrees including numerous Ph.D's. Therefore, informing the world of education is no longer a privilege held by higher education institution faculty, our K-12 faculty have been contributing to the field of education for a number of years and we will continue to do so because we believe we have much to say.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
ACS Athens- Greece
129 Aghias Paraskevis Street & Kazantzaki, 15234 Halandri, Greece
Tel: +30 210 6070263