Ted's Story

TEACHING IN MACEDONIA

Ted4Naum, Sevda, Stepho and Vasil (my dedo, baba, chiche, and tatko) emigrated to America in 1921. My family did not flee from Macedonia, they left to make a living. Consequently, they brought Macedonian ways and culture with them. Standard fare in our meals were feta, tomatoes, olives, zelnic, grav, mandja, and hot peppers, and watermelon during summer. My father whistled Macedonian tunes while working his vegetable garden and there were weekend trips for oro and guida dances. Holiday dinners were exceptionally loud with debates, stories and laughter. My dad was social; he liked to talk over a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or shot of slivovitz. I know he cherished his memories of the homeland, the excursions on the mountains for firewood, the fruits and vegetables produced in the Prespa valleys, the smell of the air, and the ways of his village life. My family was forever fond of Macedonia. The lives of that immigrant family that raised this first generation Macedonian American are gone now, but remaining in me has been a deep curiosity and wonder of what it must have been like living in Macedonia. That is why I volunteered for the Macedonian School Project.
The Macedonian School Project is a non-profit foundation established to invest in the future of Macedonian children. Over the years, the Macedonian School Project has given material support to primary and high schools in Macedonia and helped establish English Language Resource centers. In addition, each year, the Macedonian Teaching Experience initiative seeks volunteers who are looking not only to contribute through on-site teaching but also for an experience to immerse themselves in Macedonian culture. This past summer, I seized the opportunity. I figured that an extended stay, off the beaten trail of tourism, would give me tangible connection to the roots and real meaning of being Macedonian. Such plans as these often prove to be just dreams or fantasy that are more rewarding remaining as wishful thinking than real life. My trip to Ohrid, however, exceeded my expectations.
I designed a two-week educational curriculum for high school students with the primary intent of teaching applied scientific methods and secondary aim of conversational English. The young adults ranged from 16 to 18 years of age; there were 11 females and 3 males. Macedonia is a Balkan melting pot and my class consisted of 2 Albanians and 12 Macedonians. Most of these teens had ambitions to become doctors, computer programmers, technology engineers, or artists; one honestly admitted that she was still figuring things out. With plenty of preparation and the partnering with a local school teacher and administrator in Ohrid, all students designed, completed, and presented a slide presentation of their chosen 2-week project, fulfilling and achieving an ambitious learning plan. I was thrilled and proud of their accomplishments and noteworthy contribution to the Macedonian School Project.
I observed that the Ohrid class and school seemed to mirror the state of Macedonia where salaries are modest, material goods are sufficient but not abundant or lavish, and infrastructure is in need of repair and renovation. None of this, however, deterred the students from commitment, learning, and enjoyment. My students were optimistic toward their future, kind and helpful to each other, and courteous and respectful to teachers and adults. Moreover, I noticed that the teens were loyal in their responsibilities toward helping their parents, siblings, and grandparents. I taught these students a course but the lesson the students revealed to me is that Macedonian life is about relationships.
The Macedonian School Project is designed so that teaching is part time yielding plenty of personal free time that allowed me to immerse myself in Ohrid and converse with its people. We discovered a leather works artesian who gave my wife a workshop on book making with hand-made leather covers. We spent hours in his shop not only talking about his craft but his family history and hopes for the future. We were invited to dinners at restaurants and homes, served rakija and toasted good health, absorbed Macedonian generosity, heard about daily struggles and problems, and pulled into the depth of pleasure for everything Macedonia, from history, events, food, music, dancing, and evening walks. Macedonian music is soulful in chords and rhythm but cheery, even if the words are about life’s struggles, a forlorn love, or an Ilinden uprising. I found, as a testimony to their music and social interactions, that Macedonians invest in fewer material goods but they are a happier people. Also, Macedonian time is different from American time. In America, life runs like a train on a schedule of activities and productivity. In Macedonia, time unravels slowly, endowed in talk and socializing. This was the secret ingredient of my Dad’s approach to life and so, indeed, I discovered the mark of being Macedonian in Macedonia.
If you are like me, raised in America but wanting to discover the secret of being Macedonian, then the Macedonian School Project might be your answer. Granted it takes some investment, travel money, living expenses, and preparation, but the cost is still less than tourism and experiencing the connection and insight into Macedonian culture and character provides priceless value. The Macedonian School Project was one of the smartest things I have done in life, try it yourself.
Ted Speroff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

 

 

The Macedonia Schools Project with a goal of investing in the future of Macedonian children is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization now assisting ten schools in southwest Macedonia. In the summer of 2017, the Project will begin its fourth year of coordinating interested American volunteers in providing conversational English to Macedonian students. We are seeking experienced teachers who are comfortable in small school classrooms using their area of expertise as a foundation for an educational interchange, two hours a day for ten days. The cost of the air transportation is the responsibility of the volunteer. The Project provides accommodations and breakfast with a Macedonian family in Ohrid, a Macedonian teacher/translator who will be present during the classes, and a classroom with about 15 students and supplies. All students will have some knowledge of English but need practice in using their language skills with English speakers. The Macedonia Schools Project website includes photos and information about our program at www.makschools.info.

 

Tom Lineham
Project Coordinator
614 E. 28th St.
Vancouver, WA 98686
Phone: 360-977-2237
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Testimonials

Stevce Stafanoski
2017-09-21, 15:52
The presentations went very well! Students took their projects very seriously and gave excellent talks, beyond my expectations and beyond what a typic...

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Thomas Lineham

Project Coordinator

614 E. 28th Street
Vancouver
WA
98663
USA