It came a month and three days late, but the celebration of Greek Independence Day under the auspices of NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Kosta Constantinidis at City Hall in NYC on April 29th brought out the kefi for both Greek and non Greek alike. This year’s honorees included two note-worthy women, Nancy Papaioannou and Christina Tettonis.
Tettonis serves as the principal of the Hellenic Classic Charter School in Brooklyn, another tally on the honor roll of successful Hellenic charter schools in the country. Councilman Vincent Gentile, the long-standing representative from Bay Ridge introduced Tettonis as “one of the best principals in the entire country” and a “protege of the public school system under Chancellor Farina.” He commented on the legacy of the Tettonis family as the part of “bedrock” of his corner of Brooklyn as so many members are active in the local civic life. “Wherever you turn,” he cited, “there is a Tettonis somewhere involved in the Bay Ridge community.” As the oldest daughter of an immigrants, Tettonis served as a public school teacher and then administrator of his old alma mater, PS 70, before taking the post as principal of the Hellenic Classical Charter School.
“When it comes to education, Christina believes in cooperation and trust and not the technocratic style used by some school leaders,” Gentile remarked. “Inside and outside of school Christina treats her students like family from the Old Country.”
Tettonis accepted the Councilman’s Award and in turn garnered the award to her parents Vasilis and Stavroula Poulos attending in the audience to honor them “for teaching me the importance of values, faith, determination and the importance of education, the appreciation of Greek heritage culture and religion.” She attributes her upbringing with providing the solid foundation to pursue her endeavors. “By reflecting on lessons and values of Hellenism we can be better Americans who contribute to our entire state,” Tettonis remarked. She was quick to cite her family and friends as source of encouragement and motivation, especially her two twin sons who were not present at the ceremony as they are attending college and taking final exams. She encouraged families and educators to continue to encourage their children to love and respect their ethic heritage.
The second woman to be honored was Athanassia “Nancy” Papaioannou, the first woman to lead the Hellenic Chamber of Congress, and first female president of Atlantic Bank investment division. Speaking in a thick Greek accent, Papaioannou recognized the contributions for equality liberty and that the Greek heroes of independence lent the world a struggle still ongoing in the present day.
Papaioannou was born, raised and educated in Athens, Greece, where she attended Arsakion, a prestigious preparatory school, as well as the French Academy. At the age of 18, she joined the National Bank of Greece and in 1990, was transferred to its U.S. affiliate, Atlantic Bank of New York.
Once in New York, Papaioannou continued her academic studies, majoring in Accounting and Banking, and graduating from Marymount Manhattan College with a degree in Business Management. Building on her extensive experience and her education, she became the manager of the Premier Banking Group of Atlantic Bank of New York in February 2001. In 2006, when Atlantic Bank of New York was acquired by New York Commercial Bank, Papaioannou continued in her leadership role with Premier Banking.
Two non-Greeks in attendance brought an outsider’s view to the event. Anna Vierra, a Brazilian personal assistant, 53, worked in a Greek restaurant and fell in love with Greek food music and culture. “Greeks are easy to be with and are happy people,” she cited. “Music and philosophy are their greatest contributions.”
Carolle Elie, a librarian, 60, was introduced to Greek culture through a college friend who she used to take to Haitian restaurants. “As someone from the islands, I like their joie d’vivre,” she explains. “Greeks are very welcoming. They are not the kind to isolate people;they embrace everybody. We accept each other and we make great friends.”