When 27-year-old Despina Anthoulaki applied last summer for the position of substitute teacher, she could not imagine that this year she would teach the only class in a tiny school, and that she would have to go to work each day by dinghy.
And not only that. From the bustling school in Rethymnon where she worked last year, the tiny school on Telendos Island in the Dodecanese archipelago has only one class with five students — whose numbers soon will be reduced to four.
Guided by her love for teaching, Anthoulaki left Crete and moved to Kalymnos, where she settled into her new life. But from there she must go by boat 1km (o.6 miles) every day to go to the small school on Telendos Island.
But one of the things that make her daily hardships all worthwhile is when her students wait for her each day at the island’s port to walk to school all together to begin classes.
“It’s very different from the school I taught last year, it’s an unprecedented experience, though at first, I admit that I found it difficult. This is my second year working as a teacher. Last year I was in a huge school in Rethymnon with 220 children and this year I found myself in a school that has only four! ” Anthoulaki told interviewers from the dimokratiki.gr news website.
As she explained, after her application was approved she first moved to Kalymnos, and then her placement at the Telendos school followed soon after.
Ironically, the year before, Anthoulaki had read a report in the media on her predecessor, Eleni Tanou, who taught the Telendos students last year. She said she could never have imagined at that time that she would one day be in her shoes.
This year, however, the Telendos school will be closed during the winter, as the young pupils will all move to Kalymnos with their families. They will then return to Telendos after Easter as the parents get ready for the new tourist season on the island.
Despina Anthoulaki has vowed that she will continue her classes on the island upon the return of her students.
“I think of Eleni, who served here last year… things would have been more difficult because she had to get on the boat during the winter, in bad weather. This year the school will shut down for the winter,” she explained.
“At the beginning of the school year there were nine students, now it is five and from next week it will be four until they leave next month,” the young teacher told dimokratiki.gr.
Anthoulaki said that her love for children and teaching allowed her to accept her new position very gladly, despite the difficulties she faces almost daily. She said that she has not regretted her decision to teach on the tiny, remote island in the Aegean for one minute.
Furthermore, she said, the full support she received from her parents to pursue teaching, a profession she loves with all her heart, gives her wings. Despite the practical difficulties she encountered during her first days there, she said that now she is thriving and reveling in the experience.
Anthoulaki concluded, “Here we are all like a family, with the children and their parents. Everyday life is different from what I knew until now. It may have been a little difficult at first, but now I can say that I like it. It was my choice to pursue this profession, knowing that it had many difficulties, but I always wanted to be a teacher.”