A. Fantis Parochial School is a “hidden gem” located in the historic district of Brooklyn Heights. Grounded in a rich history and Hellenic culture (that’s Greek!), A. Fantis School Principal, Theodore Tasoulas, shares how the school has preserved its Greek Orthodox values for over 55 years while adapting to a rapidly evolving society. “I think the key approach is the innovative curriculum and providing the support for great teaching to take place,” says Tasoulas.
Teaching a variety of subjects from Modern Greek to Biology, A. Fantis brings these subjects to life through school field trips to New York City museums, academic programs and clubs, and cultural exchange programs with schools in Athens, Greece, such Moraitis School and several Public Schools. A. Fantis encourages learning through a phenomenon based learning approach, engaging students with curious phenomena rather that inspires them to want to learn more and delve deeper.
“A big approach to the curriculum is making learning more active, authentic and applicable, using our partnership with Vanderbilt University and programs like Classroom NYC, the Billion Oyster Project, and the 8th Grade Senior trip to Greece,” Tasoulas says. “It’s about students better understanding the way the world works in a way that uses textbooks to complement instruction, not drive it.”
Though A. Fantis is a parochial school grounded in the Greek Orthodox Religion and classical Hellenic culture, it is also forward thinking and creates a safe space where students feel free to “push their boundaries.” The school is proud of its roots and Tasoulas says school board leadership has their eye set on the next 55 years and what the future has in store for them!
What’s different about the classes, teachers, and students at A. Fantis Parochial School?
With just one class per grade and class sizes under 20, we’re a smaller school environment. Many students have been with us since preschool all the way up through 8th grade. They’ve had the same preschool teacher and everyone knows their name. It’s kind of like that small, more familiar environment where kids feel really comfortable, often calling school their second home.
How does the school take advantage of its prime location and being located in NYC?
From Manhattan to Staten Island, we select strategic sites that enhance student learning. We are involved in the Billion Oyster Project, which has the goal of restoring one billion live oysters to New York Harbor by 2035. The project engages students and scientists through marine restoration-based STEM education to help repopulate the harbor’s oysters. Just last week, they went to Brooklyn Bridge Park to check on their oysters. Thorough this project, the students run science experiments while also learning history and using math to monitor progress.
As a Greek Orthodox School, do students have to sign a statement of faith and what percentage of A. Fantis is Greek Orthodox?
We are a Greek Orthodox School and our students, from K–8 are required to be baptized in a Christian Faith. While 60 percent of our students in Grades K-8 are Greek Orthodox, the remaining students are Catholic and other Christian denominations.
What do you think makes the school so special?
We like school to be exciting and engaging for students both during school and after classes. Our after school clubs allow us to provide experiences and educational opportunities that we wouldn’t be able to do during the day, such as swimming, robotics, and karate. We have partnered with elite vendors to provide programs that engage our students both physically and educationally. We’re creating a chess team and a robotics team so that students can compete with schools across the city. The PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), beyond being vital in fundraising, involves families with monthly events, such as Family Movie Night and Breakfast with Santa.
How do you hope to lead the school so that it is around another 55 years?
That’s really where the Vanderbilt University Partnership comes in, where university professors and scientists work with teachers and leadership to focus on student learning. We’re also involved in an initiative called “Classroom NYC”, which is kind of related to Vanderbilt in the sense that we want to take learning outside the walls of the classroom and see the rich variety of resources the city and world have to offer. That includes our preschool students going to the Transit Museum all the way through Middle School, where students go to an outdoor education center in the Catskills for a weekend camping trip, and our 8th graders week-long cultural exchange program in Athens that culminates the Hellenic Culture and Greek Language studies that they’ve been participating in since preschool.
How has A. Fantis improved education in recent years and plan to continue that in the future?
The number one focus has been supporting and developing of our excellent teachers. We have also been strategically re-evaluating and improving our curriculum. We have revamped the K-8 Science Curriculum, in partnership with Vanderbilt University. We also overhauled our math and English coursework so that students will delve more deeply into content and apply their understanding in different settings. Next year we are excited to unveil new project-based courses in STEM and Humanities for middle school. Our students will continue to succeed and raise the bar as long as we focus on excellent teaching, engaging studies and exciting school life.
To learn more about A. Fantis Parochial School, visit afantis.org