The longtime principal of a local private elementary school is ‘turning the page’ after more than 40 years of service to her school.
Anne Prokop, the principal of the Greek American Institute in Pelham Bay for the last 16 years, decided now was the right time to turn over the leadership of the school to her capable assistant principal.
Prokop began her teaching career at the school in 1976 as an English teacher, recalling that she took two trains to get to the school from Astoria in Queens when she first began, and still travels a distance to work every day.
“It is bittersweet,” said Prokop. “It is difficult to leave a place that your are committed to and love so much; I always say I never went to work, I went to school.”
Originally, Prokop said she didn’t plan to stay at the school as long as she did, but said she fell in love with the environment from the first day she stepped inside the building.
“I think the reason I stayed is because I felt I truly was making a difference here,” she said.
John Attanas, the school’s assistant principal, as well as a writer and playwright, will become principal in September.
He said Prokop made a difference at the Pre-K through 8th grade school by making the school broader in terms of subjects taught and in terms of outlets for student creativity and spirit.
Today, top-ranked high schools often seek out GAI students, said the principal.
“It is not just that our students are academically well-prepared, they are very poised and well-behaved,” said Prokop. “We really made this is a second home for the students.”
The composite of the student body has changed in the time that Prokop was at the school, and it is now comprised of students of all kind of religious and ethnic backgrounds, she said.
When she first began, GAI was primarily a school for Greek-Americans, but in the time that she’s been principal, it has become more of a parochial/private school for a variety of diverse student backgrounds, she said.
“It interesting, because there are a quite a few of other parochial schools that students can go to (that are) Catholic in nature, but I would say a good 50 percent of our students are Catholic.”
When she first started in the position 16 years ago, she and her team set out to create the type of school that they would want their own children to go to, said Prokop.
She said GAI made a number of changes and additions under her leadership: from the color of the school building, uniforms, creation of an Honors English Seminar, Regents prepping, photography, yoga, tennis, art club, evening of the arts, painting, stop animation, knitting and tennis.
“I think also the academic standards of the school have risen (over the past 16 years),” she said, adding that she understands that often times they are referred to as that ‘little Greek school’ which is doing great work.
The school’s parish council also had glowing words for the retiring administrator.
“Prokop was a great teacher and a great principal and filled the top position admirably,” John Korres, vice president of the Parish Council said.
“As principal she enhanced the image of the school dramatically. In fact our enrollment increased during her years at the helm due to her dedication,” he said.
Korres added that both the students and parents admired Prokop and that the Parish Council is eager to work with her worthy replacement, Mr. Attanas.