The staff also creates living arrangements that strive to resemble a family unit. Boarders live in vertical families, in apartments above the main offices. In groups of 15 girls of various ages, they are guided by a young paedagogus, who triples as educator, mother, and sister. The spacious rooms are color-coordinated for each of the five family units on the premises. A sixth is in nearby Rafina, in a donated villa.
The apartments include a large living, dining, and study area, their own kitchen, bedrooms, and baths. The couch and the beds are covered with hand-woven spreads, their traditional Greek motifs intricate and colorful. On the floor, thick flocati rugs capture the light of the afternoon sun and reflect it on the decorated walls. In the afternoon the girls return here to do homework under the supervision of the paedagogue. These paedagogues are attractive and compassionate women who graduated from the school in the years before special education became the focus.
The teachers also are dynamic members of this special place for special children. Christos Bountouvas teaches the six or seven children who have severe learning disabilities. His classroom is bright and cheerful, with cutouts on the walls for use in teaching the children. Todays lesson is about what they eat. With enormous patience and good humor, Mr. Bountouvas deals with traumatized children who cannot speak. Andreas is one whom at first could hardly stand or sit still. The teacher points to a picture and, with a half smile, Andreas beats the syllables of the Greek word for lettuce.
Mr. Bountouvas stays with each unit for three weeks. He has been with the school for six years and obviously loves teaching these children. He explains how he came to use his method: I learned by doing, with a lot of help from the speech therapist.
Another man on the staff, Dimitris Sklavounos, teaches gymnastics and athletic games. He studied in the States but is much happier being here in Greece, in this school that deals with special children. In the late afternoon sun, the girls line up under his direction to shoot baskets. They do it with glee. The surroundings are beautiful, the sounds of the girls happy as they toss the ball and run to get in line for another chance, and another, and another.
Pammakaristos means all blessed in Greek. It also means repeated chances for girls who would have none were it not for this school which is a home.
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Katerina K. Whitley writes and edits in North Carolina.
Tags: Children Education Disabilities Greece