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Community  A Legend in Greek American Education: Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas

  A Legend in Greek American Education: Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas

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By: Catherine Tsounis, Contributor

          A professional woman visited us at the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” in the mid 1980’s. Her smile and kindness impressed us. Athena Kromidas, principal, educator, professor worked at William Spyropoulos School and created a legend. She helped generations of students. Principal Kromidas is retiring on February 1, 2018. She will be missed by all.

          I have been writing about Principal Kromidas’ career in writings and photographs. I will cover some of the major events that I attended in this article. since 1985. Over six hundred persons attended a William Spyropoulos School PTA Testimonial in her honor at Terrace on the Park catering establishment in Flushing Meadow Park. The students of William Spyropoulos School created a unique handmade tapestry.

          This evening we gather to honor the one individual who is able to bring the best out of all of us at St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos School,” said Rev. Paul Palesty. “She is not only a professional administrator, but a second mother to our children.” Mrs. Kromidas is a dedicated, caring educator that stands out in one’s memory. She is always present to help a child or parent. When a parent has a problem, he/she knows that Mrs. Kromidas will go out of her way to try and help. This unique person is known for working hard and aiding community causes anonymously.

     Her education background includes: Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Philosophy with honors from the University of Athens; Master of Art’s 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 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. She has cemented close ties with the members of the northeastern Queens community in public education and politics.

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     The dynamic educator played an active role in helping St. Nicholas Church forge a close relationship with the 111th police precinct. Her work helped to make the neighborhood safer and contributed to the appointment of a crossing guard at 196th Street and Northern Blvd. in Flushing. She played a key role in the reestablishment of a Modern Greek program at Benjamin Cardozo High School.

     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 the 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.1

          Mrs. Kromidas comes from a northeastern Aegean island that gained its freedom in 1912. She helped organize the 100-year centennial of Chios freedom. “It was one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1912, that the island committed to seek its liberation from the Ottoman Empire and be united with Greece,” said Athena Kromidas, Educator/Scholar/Principal of William Spyropoulos School of St. Nicholas Church in Flushing, New York. “A series of events titled ‘The Centennial Celebration’, taking place throughout the year of 2012 have been organized to honor the centennial anniversaries of the liberation of Chios and the founding of the Panchiaki Korais Society….We have a very ambitious program for the say with speakers of the highest esteem who will be presenting topics on political and financial developments in Greece, intellectual developments as well as the flourishing of maritime in Chios, key scientific milestones and Hellenic presence in America. Our goal today is to have you leave this symposium with a wealth of knowledge and a deeper appreciation of our Greek Heritage.” And that they did. Abundant refreshments exhibited the Chian traditional hospitality that comes from their Ionian descent of ancient times.2

          Mrs. Kromidas has aided me in my education, as well as journalism career. In 2000, Nicholas, Annette and Nicole Fridas, the late Constantine Parthenis and Principal Kromidas inspired Panchiaki Korais to establish Modern Greek scholarships at the University I taught. They encouraged the youth on the university level, while I taught until 2010.

          Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas has been honored numerous times in her career. Mrs. Kromidas 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.

          She is a legend – loyal and steadfast. Recognizing her education work were His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America, Mr. Stephen Cherpelis, Archon Dikaiophylax of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Dr. Theodosis Pelegrinis, Deputy Minister of Education, Research and Religious Affairs of Greece with staff member George Krikis, Mr. Vasilis Philippou Consul-General of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr. Thalia Chatziagiannoglou, Head of the Office for Educational Affairs of the New York Consulate General of Greece and prominent persons from the education and business communities. She received honors from Michael Giannaris, NY State Senator of District 12, Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” and the Department of Education of Greece.

          . “I would not be here today if it were not for the opportunity I was given to offer my services in educating our Greek community,” Principal Kromidas said upon receiving her award. “I owe this award to my family, to my colleagues and to the parents and students of St. Nicholas School and the entire Greek community in Flushing. It is an honor to serve the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Parish, a community which I love and respect—for more than 32 years.” The Chian Federation presented its 34th Annual Homeric Award in 2013 to Principal Athena Tsokou-Kromidas. She has a weekly radio program on Cosmos FM.

          Our daughter, Despina, stayed at William Spyropoulos School in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s because she liked being with Principal Chris Arlis, Principal Athena Tsokou Kromidas and staff. They knew how to bring out the best in our child. Dr. Despina

Siolas owes her success has an MD./Ph.D. to her formative years under the leadership of Principals Arlis and Kromidas. She has been 100 percent loyal to me when it counted. Mrs. Athena Tsokou Kromidas will not fade away on retirement. This brilliant, artistic person will begin a new, creative path in her life. “I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well,” Alexander the Great.


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