Koraes Elementary School students excel academically in a nurturing environment with emphasis on faith and culture. Go #AllinforKoraes at the 2nd annual gala this April 29.
Koraes Elementary School
For more than 100 years, Koraes Elementary School in Palos Hills, IL has imparted a love of learning while instilling pride in Orthodoxy and Hellenism. They’ll celebrate this legacy and look to the future, at their upcoming gala on April 29.
History of Koraes Elementary School
Established in 1910, Adamantios Koraes Elementary School was the second Greek Orthodox Parochial School in Chicago. The school’s founders wished to offer Greek education, and to pass our Orthodox Faith and rich cultural heritage to the next generation. English was added to the curriculum in 1922. The following year, an afternoon Greek school program was added to teach the Greek language to students attending public schools.
Part of the community of SS Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, the school and church were originally located at 64th and Michigan in Chicago. The school was named in honor of Adamantios Koraes (1748-1833), a prominent scholar who laid the foundation for Modern Greek literature. He is also known as the intellectual father of the Greek War of Independence.
Today, 145 students in preschool through 8th grade call Koraes Elementary School home. The fully accredited program not only provides an excellent education, but also the opportunity for students of Greek descent to learn about and take pride in the celebration of their faith, culture, heritage and traditions.
This year, Koraes Elementary School has focused on revamping curriculum to meet the ever-changing needs of our modern society, and fully integrate the Illinois Learning Standards (Common Core State Standards). The close-knit school and community continue to provide a unique opportunity for students, where they not only are instructed in academics, but also in Greek language, history and culture, and the Orthodox Faith.
At the start of this academic year, Beth Lind joined the Koraes family. With 27 years experience in education — in the classroom and in administration — she said she was drawn to Koraes for several reasons.
“From the Christian atmosphere, to the close-knit opportunities for kids, this is a unique and special place. There’s a great balance between family, faith, and education. Students leave Koraes well-prepared for high school. Our families are actively involved and they practice their Orthodox values daily. That’s what drew me here.”
Beth isn’t Greek, but is enjoying learning about the culture.
“The kids often share their love of their faith and their culture with me. When they share more about themselves, it helps them to appreciate their cultural heritage, as well as their cultural differences. It has been a positive experience for the students and for me. I see the value and importance in keeping their cultural heritage and rich faith alive. Koraes provides the place where children can continue to grow and appreciate their Greek Orthodox heritage. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that, and will work hard to help sustain it.”
While Koraes has always been committed to a high quality education, this year’s focus has been on revamping and upgrading curriculum along with integrating instructional strategies that match the needs of the learners. As society advances, as well as technology, the curriculum changes strive to prepare Koraes students for these challenges. This year, there’s been much concentration on English/Language Arts (ELA) curriculum, and next year, they’ll focus on Math. Currently, the staff is piloting new curriculum for K-8, in both Math and ELA. Full implementation will take place in the fall of 2017, for reading, writing, and mathematics. These upgrades will provide the opportunity for Koraes teachers to teach using a competitive curriculum as other neighboring schools do, and keep step with the rigorous new Illinois Learning Standards. Since students learn at different levels, the new curriculum will allow more opportunities to differentiate instruction to match students’ individual needs. All of these ensure that students will be fully prepared for the highly competitive high school and college environment.
The new curriculum will also allow for a more collaborative approach to learning. Beth said they’re already seeing greater collaboration between students and their teachers in the classroom since piloting began earlier this year.
“Both teachers and students are having more rich classroom discussions. We’ve planted the seeds, and we’re seeing them start to sprout. There is a renewed eagerness and excitement to come to school and continue to work towards meeting goals. We’re doing a lot of professional development around this, to help grow our teachers to be able to facilitate these important discussions.”
Beth indicated that there was additional concentration on leveling classroom libraries.
“By having rich classroom libraries filled with a variety of levels and genres, students have access to books to read at their levels in order to grow in their love of reading and apply literary elements. Teaching reading becomes so much easier when children have access to a variety of texts to support volumes of reading to increase their reading skills, and develop a passion and love for reading. We’re teaching reading in a whole new way, and that’s something to celebrate.”
In keeping with changes in education and state standards, this afforded a great opportunity to upgrade the preschool and preK curriculum.
“We use the Illinois Early Learning Standards to drive the program and curriculum. In doing so, this allow us to prepare these children appropriately for Kindergarten.”
The computer lab at Koraes has 30 work stations. The lab facilitates research and technology learning. It’s also used for MAP testing, which takes place 3 times a year. Beginning this fall, every 5th-8th grader will have a Chromebook, and Google Classroom will be fully implemented.
“While we still believe in ‘textbook in hand’ to annotate texts, the technology will help us to enhance and grow learning.We believe this technology implementation will increase student engagement and provide a more student-centered approach to learning. Our staff will further differentiate with many additional resources.”
More STEM activities, like coding, will be offered this fall.
From preschool through 8th grade, students participate in daily Greek lessons. Three Greek teachers collaborate to meet the needs of all the students.
“We do some unique things in our approach to teaching in our Greek classes. Having a staff of three provides the opportunity to differentiate for our students’ varied levels of Greek instruction. Our art teacher is also one of our Greek teachers and occasionally, she will give the art lesson in Greek. The kids enjoy the interaction and the chance to speak Greek. They don’t miss a beat. Speaking Greek across other content areas enhances their language learning.”
The Greek team is working on aligning their curriculum with the Illinois Foreign Language Standards and incorporating a variety of instructional practices gleaned from the Midwest Foreign Language Conference, in order to maximize learning and mastery of the language.
Koraes has a very strong and active student council that conduct many programs throughout the year. They’re in the process of creating new clubs based on student interest, including STEM. They’re also connecting Koraes with a network of other private schools, to offer competitive opportunities in chess, bowling, and more.
This year the 7th and 8th graders took a three-day trip to Washington, DC.
“Our itinerary included a visit to the Holocaust Museum. Students had to familiarize themselves with the Holocaust prior to the trip in order to gain respect and understanding of the atrocities. They chose a book, and gave oral presentations. The student response was outstanding, as they thrived with this activity. Without a doubt reading material from a personal perspective enhanced their experience at the museum.”
The principal, along with Elizabeth Christofylakis, Corresponding Secretary of the KPTA and Marketing Committee Member for the School Board, agreed that the small school environment and the church connection, are a big part of what makes Koraes special.
“Students love Father Tom DeMedeiros, and it’s evident. He knows all of our students by name and therefore our students feel personally connected. He teaches them about Orthodoxy, and they discuss it openly. I see the power of morning prayer, and how it sets the tone for the day. The students feel it, too.”
She added that the small school setting fosters a brother-sister type relationship in students.
“It’s much harder to do that in the public school setting. The kids develop a healthy camaraderie, which opens up opportunities for so much more. It really enriches their experience at Koraes.”
The principal added that the KPTA and parents support are the backbone of the school. She said that when kids see their parents involved, and so passionate about the school, it’s very meaningful to them, and it resonates.
“It’s all about faith, family, and respect for heritage and community. We live this every day. It’s an amazing experience for all of us.”
This multi-dimensional experience is the hallmark of Greek Orthodox Parochial Schools, and students thrive.
2nd annual Koraes Gala
Support this wonderful Greek Orthodox Parochial School at the 2nd annual Koraes Gala, on April 29 at the Odyssey Country Club in Tinley Park, IL. WGN-TV/WGN-Radio’s Andrea Darlas will be the MC. The combination masquerade ball and casino night will be a fun night for a great cause. All proceeds benefit curriculum enhancements and professional development.
Elizabeth said she’s grateful for the outpouring of support.
“Many businesses have come together to support this effort. They see the tremendous benefit of a school like Koraes.”
Go #AllinforKoraes, and support this year’s gala.
Updated: This event has already taken place.