As the years go by, Greek language teacher Mary Christofidis, who has been teaching at the Victoria School of Languages for over 30 years, has witnessed less interest and declining numbers of students. But what always gives additional motivation, Ms Christofidis says, are children from mixed marriages keen on keeping their Greek heritage alive.

And it is the enthusiasm of students like 11-year-old Candice Humphries for Greek language and history that has inspired their teacher over so many years. Candice, who comes from a mixed marriage, shares her thoughts on why her Greek heritage is ‘the best gift she was ever given’.

My name is Candice Humphries. I am 11 years old and I am studying Greek at the Victorian School of Languages every Saturday. I am in Year 5. During the weekdays I attend Ardeer South Primary School. My dad is Australian and mum is Greek.

I love going to Greek school every Saturday. I have learnt many things at Greek school, not only the Greek language but Greece’s amazing history and so many other things for everyday life, like strong values and morals.

I first started Greek school in 2010 when I was in grade 1. I was only six years old. I was so excited the first day at Greek school and had lots of fun. I couldn’t wait to go back, and this feeling hasn’t left. Every Friday I am happy I have one day left before I go back again on Saturday morning. I love doing my Greek homework too.

The reason that I started coming to Greek school was because my mum is Greek and I wanted to be part of this wonderful heritage we have.

My sister Daphne is older than me; she started coming to Greek school first and I was excited to be with her.

It was really, really great fun going to Greek school on a Saturday but of course I was a bit scared on my first day. I didn’t really know the place or anyone apart from sister, but that soon changed.

During the five years I have been at Greek school, I have made many friends and I know we will be friends for life. We are like a family.

My teacher Ms Mary Christofidis is kind, caring, and supportive – exactly how a great teacher should be. I have had the same teacher for five years. Ms Christofidis makes work clear and easy to understand and is the type of person where you wouldn’t be afraid to ask any question. My teacher makes learning Greek fun.

I feel Greek school is basically a place for me to continue finding out about my Greek heritage. It allows me to learn more about my religion, traditions and customs and, most of all, Greek history. Lots of history, which I love.

I learnt about the 25th of March 1821, when Greece finally got their freedom back after 400 years of occupation. Our school celebrates Greek Independence Day and also participates in the Annual Greek Schools’ March to the Shrine of Remembrance to celebrate Greek Independence Day. I love attending this excursion, I feel so proud being part of the whole parade.

At Greek school we also learn how many English words come from Greek words – and that’s hundreds. We learn at least one new word each week. It’s amazing how much Greek is in English.

I am also so amazed with ancient Greek history – what the Greeks achieved so many years ago and we can’t do it today.

Our class is currently following the excavations at Amphipolis and every week we look forward to the updates explained by my teacher. This is so exciting to be watching and following our history come to life. I keep wondering whose tomb it is.

I am also amazed that the ancient Greeks were the founders of democracy and let everyone have their own opinion and their own voice and not just being told what to do, not being a follower but an individual person with their own voice. Thanks to ancient Greece, today we have democracy and we all
have our own opinions and freedom.

I have learnt a lot of Greek vocabulary and am able to translate English to Greek or Greek to English. I have learnt Greek pronunciation, spelling, songs and so many more things that would make a never ending list if I started.

I’m glad that I get to see my Greek grandmother, yiayia Paraskevi, every weekend. We go to her house for dinner but during this time it also gives me some time to practise speaking Greek with her. Yiayia Paraskevi is great to practise my Greek with as she was born in Greece and her Greek is perfect. We have so much fun together.

I love the Greek traditions my yiayia has taught me, like dying the red eggs for Easter, making Christmas and Easter sweets like melomakarona, koulouria, kourambiethes and so many more tasty Greek dishes. We go to church together on Good Friday and other Holy days through the year. My wonderful yiayia is the best yiayia in the world and I’m glad that she is my yiayia.

In my four and a half years at Greek school I have learnt so much and have made lots of new friends. I even feel my teacher Ms Christofidis is my friend now.

I enjoy seeing my friends every week and I do miss them during the holidays. I feel really happy at Greek school and I am glad that I decided to come in the first place. I was never forced to go to Greek school but I am so glad I made this choice. If you are reading this and you don’t go to Greek school you are really missing out!

I’m so happy that I’m Greek and it’s all thanks to my mum and the people before her that I’m Greek. Thanks for being Greek, mum! This is the greatest gift you have given me and I hope to pass this on to my children one day.

I have an awesome time at VSL Greek school and I can’t wait until every Saturday comes so that I can learn new things about one of my two backgrounds. Each Saturday I get a better understanding and appreciation of my Greek background which I am very grateful for. And I can’t wait to hear about what is in the tomb of our Amphipolis.

Zito H Ellas mas!