By Catherine Tsounis
“We are with our educators, advising and forming a connecting link,” said Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas, President of High Council for Greek Education in the U.S. “They are independent. We support them with guides, resources and encouragement. All work is done at our homes with emails and teleconferencing because of the Corona virus. All are united from California to New York. I was appointed by His Eminence, Archbishop Elpidophoros for the newly activated High Council for Greek Education in the U.S. on January 30, 2020.
Mrs. Tsokou Kromidas and High Council for Greek Education in the U.S. members are “Opening channels of feedback, communication and creation of webinars are the Council’s focus. We are assisting parishes in establishing and sustaining a Greek Studies program. Modern Greek language, history, culture and the Greek Orthodox faith and worship are the main element in the parochial, afternoon and Saturday Greek schools.” For further information on the members of the Council and their work, contact by e-mail email@example.com and the web greekeducation.goarch.org.
The High Council for Greek Education in the U.S. is an outcome of the results of the First Greek Education Conference that took place last November at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, N.Y., and it will consist of prominent individuals, professors, educators, administrators and clergy from throughout the United States. The members will form various sub-committees for policy and procedures, curriculum, and teacher professional development and their work will assist Archdiocesan efforts to revive Greek Education throughout the United States. Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas, who for many years was the Principal of William Spyropoulos Day School, has been appointed President, while Dr. Anastasios Koularmanis, Director of the Department of Greek Education will be exofficio Vice President.1
Dr. John G. Siolas, who was President of the former Archdiocesan Board of Education from 1991-93, shared with this reporter his personal archives. “This Committee was created in 1931 with the purpose of organizing and promoting Greek Education within the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America,” he said. “The Board was comprised of eminent educators and distinguished professionals. The Archdiocesan Board of Education then defined educational aims of the Archdiocese, studied the problems of Education, proposed solutions and formulated the Education Program of the Archdiocese.
Dr. Siolas explained “The new members in the 1991-93 term included, besides myself, Mrs. Stella Kokolis, Vice-President; Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Secretary and V. Rev. Damaskinos Ganas, Treasurer with twenty members. Dr. Nicholas Kladopoulos, a graduate of the University of Thessaloniki, was Director of Education for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America until his retirement in 1999.Mrs. Maria Makedon was Assistant Director of Greek education. The Archdiocesan Board of Education was convened and presided over by the Archbishop Iakovos. It met regularly four times a year, as well as on special occasions when such meetings were deemed necessary by the president.”2
Dr. Siolas is a mentor to Greek American educators through his work in the public and Greek parochial education systems, Touro College, St. John’s University, Queens College, New York University Graduate School of education and St. Joseph’s College. His archives on education from the 1970’s to our present time are being published on his Facebook page “The Arcadian Experience” for the internet community.
Who exactly is 2020 President Athena Tsokou Kromidas of the High Council for Greek Education in the U.S.? The following congratulations are taken from the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos PTA Journal, May 12, 2018, when she was honored upon her retirement. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios said “This evening you have most appropriately chosen to honor Mrs. Athena Kromidas, Principal Emeritus, for her exemplary offering to the Spyropoulos School. Mrs. Kromidas demonstrated an emphasis on education that cultivates the soul, lays the foundation for advancement, achievement and creates the cornerstone for excellence in all efforts of human endeavor. I congratulate and thank Mrs. Kromidas for demonstrating to the students that the true fruit of education is virtue.”
Rev. Protopresbyter Paul C. Palesty said that evening “Athena has been a blessing to the community of Saint Nicholas and its school. She would always sacrifice her personal pursuits to give individual time to know every child and to establish meaningful connections with them. Her distinct and humble manner, and her continued effort to acquire knowledge, inspires her colleagues, sensitizes the students and draws the respect of parents. Her dedication exemplifies and provides a catalyst for youth to set goals for their lives and thereby develop healthy families that fortify society and our country.”
A prolific writer and poetess, her works have been published internationally in newspapers and periodicals. Mrs. Kromidas has participated in radio, television, panel discussions, Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Board of Education, Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus”, Greek Regents Committee and international lectures. In January ‘1993, she was selected as ‘Educator of the Year” by the National Herald newspaper. Congressman Gary Ackerman in 1996 inscribed the Greek American educator’s accomplishments in the “Congressional Records”, which represents the History of the United States of America.
The same year, she received a citation from the State Assembly of New York by Assemblyman Mark Weprin. On November 21, 1998, Athena Tsokou Kromidas was honored as “Educator of the Year” by the Panchiaki “Korais” Society. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, honored her with the “Medal of the Three Hierarchs”. His Eminence, Archbishop Iakovos, said in a letter that Mrs. Tsokou-Kromidas has had “an exemplary service to her church. You have honored it with your loyalty, integrity, piety and true dedication. And now as you complete your years of personal and family devotion to the Church and Her institutions as a member of the Archdiocesan Council of Education, I would like you to know that I will continue to depend on your assistance whenever and wherever needed.”
In May 1996, the Chios Mesta Association of America that represents the village of her birth honored her for her unique contribution to Chios, Greece and the Greek American community. Panchiakos Syllogos Korais honored her for Excellence in Education in 1998. Political leaders presented her with citations for her unique role as a political activist at the January 2001 Greek Afternoon School Testimonial in her honor.
Kromidas has been honored numerous times in her career. She was honored for her lifelong dedication to the preservation of the Greek language and customs at the Fortieth Anniversary Luncheon of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” that was held at Terrace on the Park, in Flushing. She was honored as President from 1986 – 1988 by Prometheus President Prof. Demosthenes Triantafillou. The Chian Federation presented its 34th Annual Homeric Award in 2013 to Principal Athena Tsokou-Kromidas. She had a weekly radio program on Cosmos FM., that she continues to participate in guest spots.
Her education background includes: Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Philosophy with honors from the University of Athens; Master of Arts in Bilingual Education with a scholarship from St. John’s University; and a Professional Diploma in School Administration and Supervision from C.W. Post University. The educator has served as an adjunct instructor at St. John’s University in the Greek Language and Literature Program. She has aided the Greek Consulate in their education program. Unselfish, dedicated educators such as Mrs. Kromidas are the backbone of the parochial system of New York; and she has cemented close ties with the members of the northeastern Queens community in public education.
In 1979, she received her master’s degree in Bilingual Education with a scholarship from St. John’s University. Immediately after, she was hired by the same university to teach Greek language and literature until 1987. She began her career at the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos Greek American Day School in 1985 when she was hired by the school as an Assistant Principal un der the principalship of Cathy Zangas. Her duties included supervising the Greek program and writing the Greek curriculum of the school. The following year, Mrs. Tsokou
Kromidas became the principal of the St. Nicholas Greek Afternoon School, a position which she held simultaneously with her position as Assistant Principal of the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos School.
In addition to her work in the William Spyropoulos School and the St. Nicholas Greek Afternoon School, Mrs. Kromidas became a member of the Archdiocesan Board of Education in 1986, a position which she held until 1996, and, in 1986, she also became a member of the Greek Regents Committee-a position which she still holds today. She served as a member of the writing committee of “Paideia Omogenon” of the University y of Crete. She was the president of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” for two terms. She has presented many lectures on the themes of education, literature, culture, and history.
In 1990, Mrs.Tsokou’ Kromidas’ responsibilities as Assistant Principal of the William Spyropoulos were expanded to include supervision of both the English and Greek curriculums under the principalship of Mrs. Chris Arlis. During this time, she attended a program in C.W Post, Long Island University through which she earned her Professional Diploma in School Administration and Supervision in 1995. In September 2000, she left her position as principal of the St. Nicholas Stefanos and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School to become the principal of the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos Greek American Day School-a position which she held until February 15, 2018 and the one which she is best known for.
In May of 2004, she was honored by the P.T A. of the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos Greek American Day School for her outstanding services to the school. A commemorative journal was published in her name. In March of 2005, the honorable Ekaterini Bouras, Consul General of Greece, in collaboration with the Women Consuls General of New York, awarded her with the Community Empowerment Award for outstanding achievements and contributions. In March of 2006, courtesy of Senator Michael Gianaris, a Citation of Honor was presented to her by the Borough President of Queens, Helen Marshal, on Greek Independence Day.
In May of 2007, she received an award for outstanding contributions to the Greek education by the Federation of Hellenic Educators. Simultaneously, she was presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by Carolyn Maloney of the House of Representatives and an honorary diploma for outstanding contributions to the Greek Education by the Ministry of Education of Greece. In November of 2013, she received the “Homeric Award” by the Chian Federation of N. Y for her dedication to the Hellenic Orthodox Letters along with a commemorative publication. Recently, she was also acknowledged for her devotion to the Hellenic Ideals by the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus.”
Mrs. Athena Tsokou-Krornidas is the daughter of Joannis and Demetra Tsokou and sister of George and Marika. Her older brother Mihalis passed away when he was 18 years old. She is married to Stefanos Kromidas and has two children: George and John. George is married to Anna Kanterakis, and they have four boys named Stefanos, Nikolas, Michael and Lukas. President Athena Tsokou Kromidas is embarking on a new career path. Plato said, “No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.” Mrs. Tsokou Kromidas espouses this Platonic concept in helping all students as her own children in personal and intellectual development.
2. 2. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America. “New Executive Committee of The Archdiocesan Board Elected”, letter, 1991.
3. https://www.successories.com/iquote/author/133/plato-quotes/1 – Plato quotes.