A. Fantis Parochial School is a “hidden gem” located in historic district of Brooklyn Heights. Grounded in a rich history and ancient culture, A. Fantis Principal Theodore Tasoulas shares how the school has preserved its Greek Orthodox values while also adapting to a rapidly evolving society over the past 55 years.
“I think the key approach is the innovative curriculum and then the mix of the classical and Hellenic culture,” says Tasoulas.
Teaching a variety of subjects from Hellenic (that’s Greek!) to Biology, A. Fantis brings these subjects to life through school field trips to New York City museums, academic programs and clubs, and even cultural exchange programs. A. Fantis encourages learning through a phenomenon based learning approach, engaging students with events or phenomena rather than historical dates and facts, inspiring them to want to learn more.
“A big approach [to the curriculum] is making learning more active and authentic and applicable, using our partnership with Vanderbilt University and [programs] like Classroom NYC and the Billion Oyster Project, the Greece Trip.” Tasoulas says. “It’s about students better understanding the way the world works in a way that’s using textbooks but, using textbooks to supplement instruction, not drive it.”
Though A. Fantis is a parochial school grounded in the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek culture, it is also forward thinking and creates a safe space where students feel free to “push their boundaries.”
Though the school is proud of its ancient roots and is appreciating its 55 years, Tasoulas says they have their eye on the next 55 and what the future has in store for them next!
What’s different about the classes, teachers, and students at A. Fantis Parochial School?
We’re a smaller school environment so it really turns into a big family where students have been with us from pre-k all the way up through 8th grade. They’ve had the same preschool teacher, everyone knows their name, it’s kind of like that small, familiar environment where kids feel really safe.
How does the school take advantage of its prime location and being located in NYC?
From Manhattan to Staten Island, we select a lot of strategic sites that really enhance our learning, we’re involved in the Billion Oyster Project which is a local initiative with scientists and educators to repopulate the harbor’s oysters. Actually, just last week, they went into check on them so, they can run science experiments, they can learn history, math, through that kind of unit, that theme.
As a Greek Orthodox School, do students have to sign a statement of faith and what percentage of A. Fantis is Greek Orthodox?
We’re a Greek Orthodox School but all students, from K – 8, are required to be baptized, Christian. About 60 percent are Greek but the rest are Catholic or other denominations.
What do you think makes the school so special?
We like school to be exciting and engaging for students and families so, our after school clubs allow us to provide experiences and educational opportunities that we wouldn’t be able to do during the day. So we partner with elite vendors to provide programs such as swimming. We’re creating a chess team, we’re creating a robotics team so that students can pursue other interests that they have. And the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), beyond just being a fundraising arm, is really involved with family involvement. So, they have monthly events where parents and students are invited to events for families.
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 but also we’re 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 that it has.
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 an overnight camping trip, and then our 8th graders take a week-long cultural exchange program in Athens that kind of culminates the Hellenic studies 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 focus has been supporting and developing excellent teachers, that’s number one. And then, so we’ve been strategically re-evaluating and improving our curriculum, our curricula. Like I said, we revamped the science k-8 but we also improved our math, reading, and English course, and we’re adding a stem course this year.
We’re grounded in our history and appreciating our 55th year, but we have an eye on the next 55 years. Through the various initiatives that we have previously talked about, that’s what our vision is to get there.
To learn more about A. Fantis Parochial School, visit afantis.org