Educator Matina Psyhogeos is so passionate about Greek education, that she created her own signature program to teach it. Find out more in this Q&A.
Greek-American Educator Matina Psyhogeos
To simply say that Author and Educator Matina Psyhogeos is a proud Greek doesn’t do her justice. Read on to learn about her fascinating work.
Q&A with Matina Psyhogeos
Maria A. Karamitsos: Tell us briefly about you.
Matina Psyhogeos: I was born and raised in Krokees, Laconias (25 minutes outside of Sparta), Upon graduation at Teachers College, where I studied Education and Language, I married a Greek-American man and moved to Boston. There, I continued graduate work in Linguistics and Teaching Foreign Languages, and raised a family,
MAK: Why did you want to become an educator?
MP: My father was the ultimate teacher. He influenced and inspired me. I followed in his footsteps and never regretted it.
MAK: Tell us about your teaching career. What subjects did you teach?
MP: In the 1960s, I taught at the schools of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of New England. I continued teaching in many American and Greek Schools before I opened a private school, all in the Greater Boston area. Father Peter Chamberas and I founded the St. Nectarios Greek School, of which I served as principal for many years. Later, I was an assistant professor at Hellenic College, Holy Cross School of Theology for 12 years. Those were the most productive and gratifying years, since I had the opportunity to perpetuate my love and enthusiasm for the Greek language, to future priests and teachers.
MAK: What are your thoughts on the way Greek is taught in the U.S.?
MP: When I starting teaching Greek as a foreign/second language in this country, very early on realized that the methods and approach used up until then, made it extremely difficult for an American student to successfully learn — and most importantly — to retain the language. I realized that I either had to change professions or develop a comprehensive program to make it easier for the student to understand what he/she was being taught and be enthusiastic to learn more. I chose the latter and developed my own program.
MAK: Tell us about the Psyhogeos Program.
MP: The program is based on three basic points; a) What to teach; b) When to teach it; and c) How to teach it. The most important characteristics of The Psyhogeos Program are Simplification; Intensity; Isolation & Elucidation in English. Once it was complete, I tested it extensively in my own school. Seeing its success, I offered seminars to schools wishing to adopt the program. The instructors, in order to be successful, needed to be organized and well-prepared to follow each lesson in the exact order and content. I developed a manual and workbook, making it easier for them to succeed. When followed consistently, the program is quite productive. The Beginners course consisted of 15 (3-part lessons.) After the fundamentals of the language were taught the class/group was able to advance to the intermediate level and then to advanced. Students saw their progress, and were eager to go on, work harder, and achieve their goal. The intensified process was gratifying to them.
I got involved in other projects and no longer teach the seminars. I don’t actively promote the program, since without the special training, I don’t believe it’s as effective. Some of the books may be used individually along with other materials for individual instruction, and teachers can use them to help prepare for their classes.
MAK: A famous linguist heard about your program and encouraged you. Tell us about it.
MP: Seeing the success and progress of the students during our testing phase was wonderful, but what set it apart was the encouragement from famous linguist. (He was besieged with requests for his opinions and asked that I not use his name.) It was the greatest impetus to keep going. He had a friend who was taking the Psyhogeos class, and that’s how he discovered it. He contacted me, and was astonished by the progress of the program. He asked to see my books. I didn’t have any books at that point, only printouts, as it was in the experimental stages. He eagerly told his friend to prompt the immediate publication of the materials. He said “If we had programs like this, teaching foreign languages in school would not had been a problem.” I asked him to write the foreword to the first book of the Psyhogeos Program. He said that it didn’t need his introduction, that word of mouth would make it a success. He was right.
MAK: To date, you’ve written 14 books.
MP: The writing and publication began with the eight books based on the Psyhogeos Program. They helped enormously in the application of that program, with the text and grammatical principles needed to reinforce its goals. The other books developed out of my love for researching and writing.
MAK: Your 14th book focuses on English words that came from Greek. Why was it important to write it?
MP: The idea for English Words Deriving From The Greek Language was implanted in the mid-1980s, when I was teaching at Hellenic College/Holy Cross, and the then-President, Dr. Thomas C. Lelon, asked me to give a lecture on the “importance and contribution of Greek to English.” At the end of the lecture I gave the audience (approximately 300 people) a list of English words with Greek origin (only about 1,000 words). They showed great interest in learning more, and it motivated me to think about undertaking the painstaking and time consuming project. With other obligations, I couldn’t pursue it then. In late 2013, I realized how this volume could be a great linguistic source, and that eventually the Greek language and its principles could be taught and better understood through English. I consider Dr. Lelon the inspiration for this book, without his trust in me on a such complicated topic, I would never had thought of doing it. I received wonderful praise for this book from both American and Greek educators. It makes me forget all the hard work it took to complete this impressive 760 page tome! A message from a man who only identified himself with the initials, A.W. — who from his posts is obviously a learned man and most likely a classicist — was the most gratifying. He said, “This lexicon is a thesaurus of knowledge and the contribution and influence of the incomparable Greek language to English will forever be its greatest legacy. Knowing its true value, everyone should have it, as I personally, wish to understand English better and learn Greek as well. I will gift it to my family and friends!”
MAK: ‘Empathy’ is a buzzword right now, but you want to change the conversation. Why?
MP: The word ‘empathy’ is misused, and now it’s my mission to eliminate this word from every person’s vocabulary. The word comes from the Greek “εμπάθεια” which means hatred, dark feelings, and animosity. It’s actually the antonym of sympathy and compassion. Empathy has been misinterpreted, for countless years, as the definition in English dictionaries is wrong! In other words, instead of expressing sympathetic sentiments and compassion, when you express empathy, you do the opposite. I analyze and explain this thoroughly in English Words Deriving From The Greek Language.
MAK: What are you working on currently?
MP: Right now I’m translating a friend’s book from Greek to English. Soon I’ll start writing the story of my uncle (my mother’s brother) who came to this country as a very young man and achieved the American Dream. He worked his way up from an assistant pharmacist, to founding the New England College of Pharmacy (now called The School of Pharmacy of Northeastern University).
Thank you Matina! All the best!