Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School of Jerusalem Surges Forward

Jerusalem – It is often the case that the telltale sign of the longevity and prosperity of a
community is the progress of its youth. This is certainly true of the Armenian Quarter of
Jerusalem, where the vigilance on the part of the administration and faculty of Sts. Tarkmanchatz
Armenian School to impart an excellent and meaningful education, steeped in the Armenian
tradition, is yielding noticeable results.
Over the course of its 83 year existence, Sts. Tarkmanchatz has had to keep pace with countless
evolving factors, both externally and internally. Examples of such changes include the expansion
of the school to encompass all grades, K-12, the multi-linguality of the curriculum, which spans
Armenian, Arabic, English and Hebrew, and the rising standards for admission into local
universities. Add to these factors the more universal phenomena of globalization, the demands
for technology in the classroom, or the advancing international standard of education post high
school, and the amount of change to keep abreast of is in one word, overwhelming.
The central tenet of Sts. Tarkmanchatz is to deliver an exemplary education while seeing to the
well-being of its steadily-increasing student population, now totaling 117. Indeed, not only
should the faculty and administration be commended for reversing the trend of a declining
student body, but for fostering a nurturing environment where learning is enjoyable, and
comradery among students is encouraged through various aferschool activities, such as the
popular Theater Club or overnight camping fields trips. Moreover, with the constant fund-raising
efforts on the part of the school administration, the entire school edifice has received an
extensive facelift in recent years, including newly refurbished classrooms, a science lab, library,
computer lab, teacher’s lounge and more, all at no expense to the Armenian Patriarchate of
Jerusalem, but coming from outside benefactors and resources.
Efforts and plans to continue on this track are only gaining speed. In the coming year, the
administration will look to develop an interactive school website, replete with academic and
other information for students, parents, faculty, and alum. Established programs and academic
competitions such as Geography Challenge or the school Talent Show will likely inspire others
of the sort. Already, the 2011-2012 academic year was marked by a memorable, festive occasion
on September 5th, when more than 30 clowns from Spain performed for the community in a
spectacular Festiclown display, entertaining young and old alike.
But perhaps the most signficiant strides taken under the principalship of Fr. Norayr Kazazian,
who assumed this post in 2007, are the curricular advances to keep pace with the ever-rising
standards of education. As a result of willingly and openly subjecting the school to evaluation
from within and without, the administration has made an extensive list of areas of necessary
improvement. During the past several years, the school faculty has gone from having only a
handful of teachers with university degrees, to now boasting of approximately 75%, including 12
with BA’s, 5 with MA’s and 3 with PhD’s. Moreover, the administration has been in close
collaboration with the British Council to obtain and incorporate new textbooks across various
subjects in accordance with the General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.) curriculum, which Sts.
Tarkmanchatz adheres to. In addition, the need to strengthen the English language curriculum in
order to better prepare students for the subject-specific G.C.E. exams administered in English has
been realized through the hiring of native-speaking English teachers, and extra daily exposure to
the English language.
Of course, alongside the emphasis on the English language, the school administration has been
particularly concerned with fortifying the emphasis on the Armenian language and culture as Sts.
Tarkmanchatz has been and seeks to be, an Armenian institution, first and foremost. With regards
to this matter, the administration has always been frank in wishing to leave no stone unturned to
instill in its students the Armenian identity. However, the challenges that the administration face
here are universal throughout the Diaspora – the lack of qualified Armenian language teachers,
the influence and lure of American pop culture, the enveloping swell of globalization, and so
forth. The remedy, if there is one, is to continue to vigorously expose the children and youth of
the community to the unique facets of the Armenian heritage and identity. In this regard, at Sts.
Tarkmanchatz Armenian School, where the church feast days and historic events in the Armenian
nation’s history are incorporated into the school calendar and widely-celebrated, and where, due
to intertwined existence of the school with the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Armenian
history is a living history in which the students partake, the task is made a bit easier.
It is true that the road ahead for the Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School community of
Jerusalem is laden with existing challenges, and even new challenges which may emerge. But I
personally believe that one who has been witness to all that I describe herein cannot feel
anything but awe-inspired at the work of this tireless community to preserve and enlighten its
greatest asset, the youth. Yes, indeed, the chalice of this community is lifted high, and it is
brimming with the promise of what lies ahead. Vartskerneet gadar!
Ani Nalbandian,
Washington, D.C.