NEW YORK—On Sat., Oct. 1, teachers from Armenian day and Saturday schools from throughout the East Coast gathered at the Eastern Prelacy offices in New York to discuss the challenges facing Armenian schools and education. The seminar was organized by the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC), a joint venture of the Eastern Prelacy and the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern USA.
The following schools participated: Saint Illuminator’s Armenian Day School, Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School, and St. Sarkis “Suzanne and Hovsep Hagopian” Saturday School (New York); Nareg Saturday School (New Jersey); Haigazian Armenian School and Armenian Sisters’ Academy (Philadelphia); ARS Zavarian Schools (Detroit); and Taniel Varoujan Armenian School (Chicago).
ANEC Chairman Haroutune Misserlian, serving as master of ceremonies, invited Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, the vicar of the Armenian Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern United States), to lead the opening prayer. During his comments following the prayer, Tanielian discussed the work of the Armenian teacher. “It is not just stories that you teach, but the Armenian teacher tries his/her best to instill the Armenian spirit,” he said, adding that students always remember their teachers.
Following Tanielian’s inspirational words, ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive representative Caroline Shmavonian conveyed the organization’s support and good wishes for a successful seminar. “Each week you have a responsibility to teach Armenian language, culture, and history to our youth, and the ARS supports this,” she said.
Misserlian then invited ANEC Director Dr. Vartan Matiossian to present the work of the committee. During his first presentation, Matiossian discussed the aims of the body as well as its current projects, which include a blog (armenianeducation.blogspot.com) that can be used as a common resource. In the following session, he presented the various resources available to teachers, such as books and magazines, and demonstrated how they could be used in the classroom. He then invited participants to browse the Prelacy Bookstore, where they could purchase any item introduced during the lecture.
After lunch, Misserlian introduced guest speaker Dr. Arsine Oshagan, who held a workshop titled “New Season, New Goal.” Oshagan asked the participants to write down the three main problems in their teaching and to think about a different way of tackling those problems. “I want to give you two tools for your tool-kit that will help you achieve your goals and inspire yourselves,” she said.
Finally, Dr. Asbed Vassilian, an ANEC member, led a discussion about Armenian schools in general. “We are here in this dialogue to exchange ideas,” he said, and encouraged the participants to share their experiences and different teaching styles. During his presentation, Vassilian invited ANEC member Sossi Essajanian to speak briefly about her experience attending an Armenian day and Saturday school in Watertown, Mass. Essajanian talked about the skills she gained in language, history, literature, and culture, and how she built on this foundation during her education. She also began a discussion about the importance of using the language, not just learning it for the sake of learning.
Building on these thoughts, Matiossian said that “if the student has the passion, he or she will find a way. … We as teachers have to ignite the fire. It is not just the language buthe Armenian spirit that we teach.” The participants later shared stories of activities, projects, and methods that worked or did not work for their students.
In his closing remarks, Misserlian thanked the speakers and participants for attending the seminar and contributing to the discussion about the state of Armenian schools in the United States. Over coffee and desert, participants continued the discussion, conveying their ideas to presenters and fellow teachers alike.