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ACS Athens – An American School with International Flavor

Education World Interview with Dr. Peggy Pelonis EdD  - May 2021


ACS Athens – An American School with International Flavor


Education World: Dr.Pelonis can you tell us about the 75 years of Excellence at the American Community Schools of Athens?

ACS Athens is K-12 American international school developing global citizens.  The educational philosophy is based on the American curriculum, principles and values.   However, ACS Athens is located in a suburb of Athens and right in the heart of the Greek civilization and culture.  The language of instruction is English though Greek is also taught as a second language.  For more than 75 years ACS Athens celebrates educational excellence and our graduates thrive across the globe.

Under the ACS ‘roof’ the very best of three worlds come together; the uniqueness of an American education highlighting choices and education for all, within the birthplace of democracy; Greece, yet with 65 different nationalities, providing students with the opportunity to develop skills that will help them be ‘at home within the world’; indeed, global citizens.  ACS Athens students, upon graduation, receive an American Diploma but also have the choice to receive a second diploma; the International Baccalaureate.  During their time at ACS Athens students can also take Advanced Placement courses as well as additional courses to receive a Greek equivalency diploma (If they are Greek native speakers).  Our faculty is mostly American trained and students pride themselves for being comfortable 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 and develop lifelong relationships.  Upon graduation, about half of the graduating classes attend universities in the United States; others go to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or anywhere else in the world where they can study in English.

Education World: What makes your educators different; can you elaborate on your “Reflective practitioners” philosophy of educators?

Students have access to abundant information nowadays via the internet therefore teaching approaches and education in general is changing.  Teachers are no longer the main possessors of knowledge but rather their teaching must involve a different kind of training; teaching students how to sort through such vast amounts of information, how to assess it, synthesize it, think about it critically and apply it effectively.  Therefore, teachers must constantly learn new ways of teaching and must be abreast of the latest developments in education.   For this reason at ACS Athens we believe in 'reflective practitioners'; faculty who continuously research, learn and improve.  Our processes involve continuously researching ‘best practice’ approaches to teaching and allow teachers to remain at the forefront of innovation and educational developments. 

Education World: How was Teaching without disruption during the pandemic lockdown at ACS?

 Knowing that technology is becoming a big part of education and will continue to gain ground in the future, we began preparing a few years ago by training our faculty to teach using a blended model.  With the onset of the pandemic we were ready to transfer fully online with well designed courses that aim to train young people in the development of 21st century skills; technological knowhow, communication skills, problem solving, collaborating and innovation.  Students learn to be independent, become inquirers and are flexible in learning modes.  Thus, during the March 2020-21 lockdown, students and faculty came together, guided by the administration and e-learning specialists, on an online platform with well designed courses. Despite the lockdown, instructional time remained intact and learning took place without disruption. Our online teaching is grounded in significant research that informs teaching personnel about technological advances considering that young people are natives in a digital world.  Our well designed synchronous and asynchronous courses also took into consideration the amount of screen time that students engaged in, thus optimal courses were designed that would maintain a good balance without adverse psychological side effects.

Education World : What are Conscious Citizens under the ACS philosophy?

As Artificial intelligence, robotics and technology in general 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 and as we continue to experience invisible and visible enemies everywhere; threats to safety and wellbeing, success does not necessarily mean happiness.  It is important for schools to provide a platform where students can be guided to self-reflect and develop a mindset of ethical decision making and one that ultimately improves lives; their own, someone else’s and life on the planet. 

A conscious citizen is one who places value on being fully human while connecting with a higher purpose; one who values human life and the relationship with all living things, and takes responsibility for transforming skill into action, through ethical decision making, to ultimately improve life and living.  Conscious citizenship is developed by creating the conditions to expand awareness of social, global and environmental issues while being empowered to assume personal responsibility; engaging in, committing to and initiating positive impact, to ultimately improve life and living on the planet.   A Conscious Citizen of the world ‘sees’ the interconnection of one’s own actions and the consequences of these and strives towards a higher purpose of creating harmonious and optimal living.

Students at ACS Athens engage in an initiate numerous projects with such aims; the Koinonos projects was student initiated to work with the homeless in the streets of Athens; to understand their plight through dialogue while providing food and clothing.  The Youth to Youth project is designed to work with young unaccompanied refugee minors to assist them in learning the local language and with other educational experiences in order to help them better integrate in this new, unknown environment.  The Dogs in Learning program is designed to bring dogs into the elementary school classrooms; children assume responsibility for their food, exercise and medical care.  Developing such lifelong habits with well designed action plans is what we continuously strive towards.

Education World : ACS’s curriculum has incorporated a focus on Sustainable Development Goals, can you tell us more about this initiative?

The Sustainable Development Goals as outlined by the United Nations are a way to help students understand that through their actions and ways of being in the world they can 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. Ultimately productive habits are developed.  Students at ACS Athens from a very young age develop action plans of how they will contribute towards SDG attainment.  Their action plans involve solutions for local issues and they see these solutions as part of a bigger puzzle (the SDG’s) that is being formed.   In this sense developing conscious citizens who will be ethical decision makers and critical thinkers who consider the good of the whole and contribute to better living and better life on the planet is just as important as developing knowledgeable, skillful individuals

Education World : What’s next for ACS?

Our virtual environment is growing and we have been developing courses beyond the ACS Athens curriculum that are becoming available to students across the globe.  These include virtual classes for Humanities, Greek culture and mythology and many more.  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 K-12 institutions such as ours and higher educational environments.   Some of our own developed courses, such as the Humanities course, are one of the highlights of ACS Athens as it is an integration of history, literature and philosophy where students study and ponder questions such as ‘what makes us human?”  Courses such as this culminate in a cultural exploration in various Greek classical sites as well as museums and sites in France and Italy.  We also have a fun and extensive summer program where students of all ages can take advantage of sports, activities and courses during the months of June and July.  Ultimately, however, the experience of being in a school with so many different nationalities, where the language of instruction and atmosphere is based on American values of education yet within Athens Greece promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Visit ACS Athens for more information.

129 Aghias Paraskevis Ave. & Kazantzaki
Street, Halandri, Athens GR 15234

 +30 210 6393200

 +30 210 6390051

 [email protected]