Coalition Language Representative

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Ester Gagnon, MBA, joined the American Hungarian Schools Association (AMIT) in the fall of 2017. Her experience in the business world and interest in pedagogy have been a natural fit to guide organizational development, contracts, and technology implementation projects at AMIT. Currently, she is leading a global team of 30 to develop a path-breaking foundational heritage language program and corresponding software, to be launched in the fall, 2021. The team is expected to measure the results of this innovative program. 

Previously, Ester was the President of the Hungarian Club of Raleigh for 10 years and served as a Diaspora Council Member. During her leadership, the small group became a vibrant community. She has reached out to other Hungarian communities and was among the first to comprehensively digitize the global presence of Hungarian organizations. She started writing Hungarian instructions for children before the Triangle Hungarian School was formally established.

Her continued interest in sharing experiences with both American and Hungarian students was rooted long ago when she led a troop of youngsters, "kisdobos". Later, she served as an American Girl Scout Leader and than as a Junior Achievement volunteer, where she fostered entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. Ester was also a logistics-supply chain instructor at the program start at Forsyth Community College. 

In 2018, the Hungarian Consul General presented Ester with a Certificate of Honor for her continued dedication to the preservation of Hungarian cultural values. 

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Ildikó Mónika Pataki was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. She obtained her BA at the András Pető Faculty of Semmelweis University (formally known as International Pető Institute of Conductive Education for the Motor Disabled) in physical therapy and teaching. She moved to Berkeley, California in 1996, where she established a private school for children with cerebral palsy. She became a Visiting Assistant Professor at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she made Conductive Education a reality for children with motor impairments by working to establish the first training program for conductor-teachers in the United States.

Ildikó moved back to California and, as a mother of 3 young daughters, she joined the local community-based Hungarian school and Hungarian Scout Troops and started to teach elementary school children. She has been teaching literature, grammar, history, and geography for the past 14 years. She serves as the President of the Executive Board of the school and helps organize activities and events for the Hungarian community. She became a member of the Hungarian Diaspora Council and represents the Hungarian organizations of Northern California at the annual conference in Hungary.

As a teacher at the Kányádi Sándor Hungarian School, Ildikó organized teacher training opportunities for Hungarian language teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area in collaboration with professionals from Hungary. She is a highly dedicated teacher and devotes her time to her students. Her mission is to create a fun learning environment where children establish an emotional connection to the language and master reading and writing while also learning about the culture of their homeland. She is passionate about teaching and loves working with young students. She strongly believes that besides being able to explain grammar concepts, a good teacher needs to be able to create a special connection with the students and construct a supportive and motivating environment for them. 

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Katalin Petreczky was born and raised in Hungary. Currently, she lives in Long Island, New York. She obtained her B.A. in teaching German as a second language at Kossuth University in Debrecen, Hungary, and continued her studies in German as a Second Language, Germanistics, and Pedagogy at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. After moving to the United States, she joined the English as a Second Language (ESOL) program at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). Upon completing the Literacy Suffolk Tutor training, she became an ESOL tutor at BNL, where she served an internationally diverse community.

Katalin's three children are members of the Hungarian Scouts Troop in Manhattan and have been studying in the Manhattan-based Arany Janos Hungarian Heritage School, where she worked as a teacher. Later, Katalin became the principal of the Hungarian school for five years. Katalin has also been teaching German as a Second Language at Deutsche Sprachschule Long Island (DSSLI), since the school was founded. Currently, she teaches German as a second language for adults and she is a member of the school’s executive board. She also teaches German as second language at her local public library.

Katalin has attended the German Language School Conference several times. These experiences inspired her to organize the first teacher development conference for Hungarian heritage language schools (AMIT), at the Consulate General of Hungary in New York, in 2013. Since then, AMIT has become a nationwide organization, American-Hungarian School’s Association Inc., of which Katalin is co-founder and co-president. AMIT has extended its involvement by annually organizing teacher development conferences, leadership workshops, and webinars for teachers and administrators of community-based heritage Hungarian schools. Katalin is also a member of the Hungarian Diaspora Council and represents the Hungarian Schools’ Association at the annual conference in Hungary.

Published: Friday, October 11, 2019