By Catherine Tsounis
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.” – Aristotle.
Mrs. Stella Kokolis, a prominent figure in education, founder of educational societies, political activist, and ardent supporter of the Greek Orthodox Church, has dedicated 50 years to promoting Hellenism and education. Recognized by the Greek government for her outstanding efforts, she continues to make a significant impact on the Greek American community and beyond.
Mrs. Kokolis, hailing from Brooklyn and Southampton, New York, is a generous humanitarian known for her unwavering support of Greek language, culture, and Greek Orthodoxy. Her contributions extend to the promotion of Hermes Expo International, where she has organized buses to bring Greek Americans, covering all expenses. Her dedication to education and Hellenism has earned her numerous awards and recognition from major organizations and political leaders in the United States and abroad.
As President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, co-founder of the Prometheus Greek Teachers Association, and recipient of the “Greek Teacher of the Year 2009” award from The National Herald newspaper, Mrs. Kokolis has played a pivotal role in advancing Greek language and culture education. She has also been a member of Community Board 10, representing Central Harlem in New York City.
Stella Kokolis’s impact on education is further highlighted by her sponsorship of scholarships, cultural activities, and initiatives to help Greek students retain their heritage. She has been instrumental in inspiring youth to learn Greek language and culture, acting as a community liaison with parents and families.
Mrs. Kokolis’s efforts extend to the international stage, where she has organized historic events to commemorate Greek education and culture. One such event, celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Greece’s Independence in 2021, brought together Greek educators from five continents to showcase ancient Greek, Byzantine, and modern Greek heritage.
In recognition of her exceptional contributions, Mrs. Kokolis received the Hellenic American Women’s Council (HAWC) award and was honored by the Secretary-General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her dedication to preserving Greek heritage culminated in the unveiling of the John Giannopoulos (Juan Genopoly) bust in St. Augustine, Florida, a project she worked on tirelessly for three years.
Stella Kokolis’s legacy in education is a testament to her kindness, generosity, and commitment to promoting Hellenism and education worldwide. She continues to be a role model and a driving force in the field of bilingual education, setting an example for all to follow.
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”1 – Aristotle.
Educator, founder of societies to promote education, political activist, supporter of the Greek Orthodox Church, she is a 2023 legend. Generous, always helping all persons and causes, the educator is there for everyone. She has never wavered in her support of Greek language, culture, and Greek Orthodoxy. Always a supporter of Hermes Expo International, a leading Trade Show and Exhibition, she has brought Greek Americans in buses, paying for all expenses. Mrs. Stella Kokolis of Brooklyn and Southampton, New York is an admirable person, recognized by the Greek government for her unique efforts in promoting Hellenism overseas.
Stella Kokolis has used heart in all of the instruction since the late 1960’s her unique education experience from New York City, America and global community was celebrated October 14th, 2012, at the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Hellenic News of America (HNA) newspaper at the Concordville Inn-Best Western Hotel & Conference Center in Concordville, Pennsylvania. A packed audience attended from states on the northeastern seaboard. Stella Kokolis is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally as a prominent community leader, educator, and humanitarian. She has received numerous awards for her professional, charitable, and political work by major organizations and political leaders both in the United States and abroad.
Mrs. Kokolis is president of the President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America. She was the co-founder and former president of the Prometheus Greek Teachers Association. In 2009, the educator was named “Greek Teacher of the Year 2009” by The National Herald newspaper in New York. Senator Marty Golden honored Mrs. Kokolis, for her work as educator, founder, and President of the Hellenic American Teachers Federation. She was a former member of Community Board 10, representing Central Harlem in New York City.
Ms. Vasiliki (Vasia) Filiotis, President of the Hellenic Paideia of America said “Mrs. Kokolis expanded the growth of the Greek language, culture, and religion internationally. We wish her good health and strength to continue her exceptional work. She has been given the distinct honor as ‘Mother of the Hellenic Education in America.’ Axia! (Worthy!).
The late Mr. Theodore Spyropoulos in a letter congratulated “Mrs. Kokolis for her political activism in forming the Federation of Hellenic American Teachers. Her voice is forceful in saving educators without pensions and medical benefits. The Federation of Hellenic American Educators under the auspices of SAE-USA (World Council For Hellenes Abroad) Region and the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C. presented the annual events of Greek Culture and Education” at the Capitol, in Washington, D.D. because of Mrs. Kokolis” efforts.
Mr. Timoleon Kokkinos, co-founder of the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” said “Mrs. Stella Kokolis is perpetuating the Hellenic language and culture among our grade school and college students. She is teaching, reaching out and motivating Greek American children, as one who understands the school systems they attend, their culture, traditions, and habits.” In addition, she has acted as a community liaison with Parents and families in inspiring youth to learn Greek language and culture. Mrs. Kokolis has sponsored scholarships, culture activities such as theater, dance, music, and visits to Greece to help Greek students retain their Greek heritage.
A historic zoom program encompassing Greek education and culture from five continents was presented May 8th afternoon for four hours, uninterrupted. Once in a lifetime Greek educator banded together to show ancient Greek, Byzantine, and modern Greek heritage to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Greece’s Independence in 1821. The Federation of Greek Teachers of America, Office of Greek Education of the Holy Archdiocese of America, and other organizations on Saturday, May 8th Presented a program entitled on the afternoon of Saturday, May 8, 2021.
Dr. John G. Siolas said, “I have worked with Mrs. Kokolis since the 1970’s. She is an exceptionally kind person without a mean bone in her body. No one can ever stay angry with Mrs. Kokolis. She is a great compromiser, negotiating and settling education disagreements. Her generosity is legendary. When someone needs funding for a project or a scholarship for a student, Mrs. Kokolis gives money from her own pocket. Her pleasant smile, enthusiasm and sincerity are unique. The educator is one of the giants of our time in the field of bilingual education of the global community. She is a role model for all to follow.”
The President of the Federation of Greek Teachers of America, Stella Kokolis, was honored by the Secretary-General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, John Chrysoulakis, on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for her invaluable contribution to the Greek language education and Greek Hellenism, awarding her the Hellenic American Women’s Council (HAWC) award, in the context of a conference organized by the HAWC in Spetses for the 200 years since the beginning of the Independence Struggle.
In his speech, which took place at the Anargyreio and Korgialenio School of Spetses, General Secretary Chrysoulakis described as “commendable and invaluable” the work of Stella Kokolis, as well as “substantial and active” the role she has played in the events of Greek language education in the USA “without deviating even for a moment from the fundamental principles of the Greek tradition, which she followed throughout her course as a teacher”.
An honorary virtual event held in memory of Ioannis Giannopoulos, an Arcadian of the Peloponnese and founder of the first Greek school in America, was held on Sunday, March 13th. 2021 at 1 pm. The Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America sponsored the event to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence. Mrs. Stella Kokolis President of Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, galvanized Greeks internationally to create this unique memorial in St. Augustine, Florida.
The unveiling of the John Giannopoulos (Juan Genopoly) bust took place in the Garden of Educators, St. Augustine, Florida on Saturday, March 7th, 2020. Greek sculptor Dimitris Talaganis from Arcadia, Peloponnese, created the work of art. Over two hundred people were present. Mrs. Stella Kokolis has worked on this exceptional project for three years with the assistance of the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators, Pan Arcadian Association with chapter Geros Tou Morea chapter of New York and donors from across the United States. Ms. Elaine Fraser, CEO, and owner of the “Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse,” was moved with tears by this historic event. Her grandfather, the former late Senator Walter B. Fraser, who was also Mayor of St. Augustine, Florida, labored to preserve the ‘Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse” and archaeological sites in St. Augustine.
An honorary virtual event held in memory of Ioannis Giannopoulos, an Arcadian of the Peloponnese and founder of the first Greek school in America, was held on Sunday, March 13th. 2021 at 1 pm. The Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America sponsored the event to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence. Mrs. Stella Kokolis President of Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, galvanized Greeks internationally to create this unique memorial in St. Augustine, Florida. Mrs. Meropi Kyriakou, President of Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” was moderator of a program with clergy, international leaders, and educators.
Mrs. Stella Kokolis explained he was a “young man who came to this great country in the late years of 17th hundreds and his first thought was to build a school. This school is the only wooden school in the U.S.A that is still in existence.”
2023 marks the return of socializing in life. Seeing being, exchanging ideas made the education event held by three Greek education societies. Mrs. Stella Kokolis President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, President Vasiliki Filiotis of the Hellenic Paideia of America and President Meropi Kyriakou of Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” held a book, awards presentation and dinner on Sunday afternoon, March 12th at Terrace of the Park Landmark, Flushing Meadows, NY. Greek Revolution hero “James Williams” book was presented by zoom from Greece by Dr. K, Rethemniotakis. The event was free. Greece’s Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs granted awards to outstanding Greek Americans. They were recognized and honored by Deputy Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Zeta Makris for their unique contribution to Greek language and culture and transmission of the Greek Orthodox tradition in America. They were recognized in a virtual presentation on February 12, 2023. These awards were given in person on March 12th.
“Let us reflect on the admirable work that the teachers have devoted to their students through the decades,” she said. “With courage and perseverance, let us continue to kindle the light of Hellenic education. I commend His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros for his education budget. He is one of the finest intellectuals of our time. For over 50 years, I have funded books, seminars events on Greek Language and culture with Hellenic Paideia President Filiotis and network. Honoree Dr. John G. Siolas has been working with me on education projects for 50 years till 2023.” Mrs. Stella Kokolis is one of a kind. We are all fortunate we have had 50 years of her dedicated education work in the United States and globally.