21st Century Education at the American Community Schools of Athens

Envisioning K-through-Graduate Education Paradigm with Intentional Excellence

ACS ATHENS

Enhancing the dialogue between K-12 and Higher Education environment is necessary, now more than ever, in order to bridge this critical transition of student learning and experience. To this end, ACS Athens is now the new publisher of the International Schools Journal; a prestigious professional journal presenting cutting edge educational ideas, experiences, and practices.

In the same direction, ACS Athens continues to develop partnerships with higher education institutions to co-offer programs that enrich student experiences and knowledge. Institutions such as Williams College, York University, Tufts University, the University of Richmond, Wheelock College, St. Louis University, Wilkes College, Widener University, Chapman University and the University of Delaware have contributed to enhancing this dialogue and thus to student learning.

"Excellence is not an accident!" says Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, President of the American Community Schools of Athens, Greece, in a recent article titled "Modeling 21st Century Education with Intentional Excellence" co-authored by Dr. Pelonis, Vice President of ACS Athens. The article, published in a special supplement on Education in Kathimerini/New York Times, explains the concept of intentional excellence within the educational paradigm of ACS Athens. The authors go on to describe the philosophy behind redesigning 21st-century education to reflect global changes and to empower individuals to be ‘architects of their own learning.’

Magic in the Making: “Empowering young people to be ‘architects of their own learning’ requires adults that are willing to listen, to continue learning, to admit that they don’t always have all the answers. Indeed, being lifelong reflective practitioners and combining adult experience with the energy and creativity of young minds and talent is magic in the making,” Dr. Gialamas and Dr. Pelonis note in the published article.

The challenges are numerous. In a world saturated with information, how do we inspire young people to learn? More importantly, how can educational institutions not only encourage learning but also motivate young people to be excellent, ethical citizens? By designing programs and creating opportunities for meaningful educational experiences that tap into young minds, talents, skills and especially hearts.

What we call Intentional Excellence: According to Dr. Gialamas and Dr. Pelonis, “Education must model the kind of world we desire to live in. It is not enough to discuss equal rights, to understand the evolution of democracy, to read about the abuse of power. Mindsets and character must be molded via meaningful daily experiences. To do so requires what we call intentional excellence.”

Intentional excellence requires educators who believe that all children can learn; who, via their professional development, discover ways to inspire and model excellence. After family, schools are an influence on young people’s minds and character like no other. “As 63 different nationalities come together at ACS Athens, it is a natural breeding ground for developing excellent, ethical citizens; people who will impact and serve humanity rather than individual interests at the expense of humanity. ACS Athens’ educators believe in lifelong learning. 86 percent hold Master’s degrees, 14 percent hold Doctoral degrees while 18 books and 165 articles have been published by ACS Athens faculty, administrators and specialists. The daily faculty curricula ensure ongoing research and reflective teaching practices which sustain excellence and model lifelong learning,” states the article in Kathimerini/New York Times.

Students at ACS Athens Today Making an Impact on Society Tomorrow: Dr. Gialamas and Dr. Pelonis describe education as a complex framework where diverse aspects of the individuals’ personalities are cultivated: “The student is at the center of ACS Athens, as a unique entity. Belonging and contributing are two necessary conditions for healthy and healthy societies. The degree of social engagement, combined with knowledge, innovation, and creativity, develop feelings of belonging that foster a sense of safety and community.” 

One would wonder what the impact on society could be. Through its rich history, ACS Athens provides concrete examples that showcase the results of such an educational approach:

●           The Incubator of Students’ Creative Ideas, designed and run by students, organizes and conducts the annual International Innovation Summit. Students present workshops on programming, writing, entrepreneurship, and innovation and have the entire campus buzzing as three schools come together to share learning: ACS Athens, The Hisar School from Turkey and the American Farm School of Thessaloniki. 

Social Entrepreneurship is a natural next step when students are given the opportunities to engage socially and are encouraged to utilize their talents, while at the same time develop vital character traits such as  and compassion:

●           The “KOINΩNOΣProject” (Kinonos: the active participant in social issues) was founded and developed by a high school student interested in understanding the plight of those living on the streets. Discouraged at first when told that such interaction can be dangerous for a young teen, she persisted. Her efforts led her to a weekly interaction volunteer activity between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. and allowed her and her peers to know by name those struggling to survive.

●           The Speak Now ACS project was developed by a tenth-grader who was inspired to raise awareness within schools about the detrimental effects of abuse and neglect.

●           Most noteworthy is when an entire community comes together to serve humanity as in the case of the Youth-to-Youth Program for young unattended refugee minors from the HOME Project organization. Initially only on Saturdays, volunteering faculty, administrators, parents, and students came together to teach Greek, English, Music, and Sports to the refugee minors, providing a place of safety and belonging. Currently, the Saturday program is in full operation for the second year while 18 of these students have received scholarships from the U.S. based Shapiro Foundation to attend ACS Athens as full-time students.

The authors of the Kathimerini/New York Times article concluded: “Excellence is achieved by deliberate intention. It is the intentional daily practice of mind and heart that develops excellent, ethical habits which, in turn, create educated, ethical citizens committed to serving Humanity.”

About ACS Athens: ACS Athens is a student-centered international school, embracing American educational philosophy, principles, and values. Through excellence in teaching and diverse educational experiences, ACS Athens challenges all students to realize their unique potential: academically, intellectually, socially and ethically — to thrive as responsible global citizens. (School Mission)

For more information, contact: Dafni Anesti

anestid@acs.gr, +30 210 6070419

Source: American Community Schools of Athens

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Categories: Educational News

Tags: ACS ATHENS, American Community School, Education in Greece, High schools in Greece, Innovation in Education, Refugee Crisis Support


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