We first met Eva in the lounge area in our hostel in Athens. It wasn’t that she was staying at the hostel or anything, but a former colleague of hers, Gelly, had come to talk to us about her role in education in Greece and as they used to work together at an intercultural school in Athens, and Eva, a teacher there came too.
I’ve always loved working with children; from helping in the early years classrooms to babysitting from the age of 12, it’s become something I’m rather passionate about, so when I learned that Eva was a teacher at this incredible school, I couldn’t stop asking questions (especially now that I’m a senior and the search for a job has become a real thing I have to do). At first I was asking about how I could get involved, wondering if there was a possibility for me to work at an intercultural school like this one, but soon realised you had to have a teaching degree, be involved in the Greek education system, and the waiting list to become a teacher for these schools was terribly long. So that wasn’t really an option. As we visited the intercultural school a few days later, my fascination continued to grow; not only with the lovely children but with the teachers and their dedication to these students. Here is an interview I did with someone who I saw to be a hero, getting to find out more about her only proved that. Meet Eva.
Where are you from?
I am from Greece and I live in Athens. My father comes from a mountain and my mother from an island. My grandmother was a greek refugee from Turkey.
What are 3 very important things to you?
Family, friends and my work.
What made you want to be a teacher?
I know it may sound a bit romantic, but I strongly believe that education can change the world. This is a way to contribute to this world. Also, I love children and working with them is very refreshing.
What are some regular difficulties that you face in your job?
The biggest difficulty is the language. The majority of our students doesn’t speak greek and we have to find other ways to communicate. Also, sometimes we have to face behaviors of children that are affected from unpleasant experiences they have had (abuse, immigration, poverty, war etc), which also can be challenging.
What values do you live by?
Respect is the most important value for me. It has to be present in all aspects of one’s life and, I believe, when it is combined with kindness, we can communicate and solve any problem we may face. Also, freedom and justice are quite important. When I come across unjust situations, I feel really stressed.
What has been the biggest challenge in your teaching career?
My biggest challenge was my last year’s class where, apart from the language problem, there was a number of kids with special needs (autism). I also had to face some very aggressive behaviours from two children from a shelter. Due to their previous experiences, it was very difficult for them to trust someone and to follow the everyday school life. Another challenge was older children that didn’t have any school experience before, and they found difficulty adjusting to the environment and the teaching process. Eventually they loved school and they learned to read and write.
What is something you’ve learnt from your teaching experiences?
In my life I used to be a perfectionist (sometimes I still am). Through teaching I learned not to expect everything to be perfect. Before, when doing an activity or teaching something to a child, I used to expect everything to end up perfect. I realized that this isn’t possible. The important thing is to try not to be stressed about the result.
What makes you want to keep teaching?
The improvement that you see in the children and the love that they give back gives me strength to continue.
What do you love about teaching at an intercultural school?
At the intercultural school, our students are immigrants, refugees, and children from shelters (for abandoned and abused children). You get to meet students from all over the world. All those different cultures co-exist in a peaceful way. It’s like the world I want to live in. You learn how to appreciate diversity. Also, especially in this school, you feel that your work is very important, that you can help these children.
What makes you happy?
The little things, things that no one expected of these children to achieve. A small change in their behavior, a new friend that they make, a new thing that they learn. And traveling! For me, it is a purpose of life. I want to travel around the world and meet different cultures, other ways of life.
As we continue to travel and visit new places around the world, I see more and more how heroes aren’t always the people on the front line or spearheading a social initiative. It’s people like Eva, it’s people like Ibu Sarita, Ibu Jackie, and Pak Johnny, who dedicate their time, love, and energy to their students; they can be heroes too, and they are.
Written by Sofi Le Berre