The Warrior Word sat down with AEP Teacher Mr. Phoundoulakis (AKA Mr. P.) and discussed his life in Greece and advice for college.
Noah Dobin: Tell us about yourself. Who is Mr. P? What is your story?
Mr. P: I am the high school AEP teacher and I have a varied background. Originally, I started professionally in business. I was in the jewelry industry for many years until 2005 when I got involved with the local synagogue in Greece. I was the secretary for that synagogue for nine years. When I returned to the United States in 2012, I started my degree and certification for teaching and that’s how I ended up here.
ND: You lived in Greece? What brought you to live there?
Mr. P: Well I’m originally from Greece, as is my family. I’ve always wanted to go back and live there. After I met my wife, I was able to convince her that it would be a great place to live and raise a family so that’s exactly what we did. We lived on the island of Crete for twelve years and raised two kids there.
ND: Wow. Living in Greece. That’s pretty cool. So this isn’t your first time working with Jewish people as you previously worked in a synagogue.
Mr. P: No. Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think that my experience working with the synagogue was part of the reason I ended up here. I have been working with Jewish people from all over the world. Our synagogue was so interesting because it was a synagogue without a community. The Jewish population of the island was twelve people. So when we had the Seders on Pesach, we had people from all over the world. We had Jews from Athens who would come down for the holiday. We had Israeli visitors, tourists from the United States, it was a mixed bag. I got to experience not just Judaism as it pertains to Greece but I actually got to meet Jewish people from all over the world and it was quite fascinating.
ND: How does that compare to this school? What are your thoughts on the school? Do you enjoy working here?
Mr. P: Oh, I do. I do enjoying working here. The thing about the school that I have enjoyed the most, aside from the students themselves, is the sense of community among the students and faculty. More particularly with the people I work with. The sense of team and togetherness is not really found everywhere else and that’s what appeals to me.
ND: Do you have any advice for students as they enter the college environment?
Mr. P: A couple things. First, you should give yourself time. You’re fortunate because of your youth that you have some time ahead of you. Don’t try to rush yourself and say “oh, I got to become a doctor and I need to do it right away to start my career.” You should enjoy the process. Give yourself the time to enjoy what’s happening to you. Also, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit. What I have seen with a lot of people over my life is that they go through a metamorphosis of sorts, and they aren’t really sure what they want to do with their lives right away. It’s okay to take a journey and try new things. You may enjoy it, you may not. You may do well and you may not but that’s all part of the process. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy yourself.
By: Noah Dobin (11th Grade)