St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church
Shrine of the Holy Virgin Mary
2701 N. Narragansett Ave., Chicago, IL 60639
Level One Teacher

My name is Reana Peshtani and I teach entry level (Level 1) children between the ages of 5 to 7 years old. At this level, children are taught the Albanian alphabet and numbers. Children are introduced to words and phrases they encounter in everyday life. Through various projects involving coloring, students become acquainted with symbols of the Albanian culture like the flag, folk ornaments, and traditional dress.

I graduated from “Aleksander Xhuvani” University of Elbasan (Albania) with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Teaching. I worked as a full time Kindergarten teacher in my home town for three years and also taught in Tirana for four years. I obtained an Italian language certificate from the University of Tirana before moving with my family to the United States in 2004. I joined the teaching team at Shkolla Shqipe in 2007. Besides teaching Albanian at St. Nicholas Church, I have been working as a substitute teacher’s aide in the Lombard School District, as a teacher’s aide in the Tri Town YMCA After School program and as a lunchroom supervisor at Manor Hill School.

My lifelong passion of teaching, nurturing and working with children gives me great satisfaction. This passion continues here at Shkolla Shqipe, a ministry of Saint Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church.

Level Two Teacher

My name is Ermiona (Oni) Hoda and I teach Level 2 which is geared towards children between 6 and 8 years of age. At this level, students start learning to read and write the Albanian language which builds on the alphabet and other lessons they learned in Level 1. Children are also introduced to reading and memorizing simple poetry. The students are asked to write down a simple short story while it is being read to them, further reinforcing their spelling and penmanship.

I was born and raised in Albania. I attended the University of Tirana where I received a degree in Economics. After graduation, I worked as an accountant in Albania and also taught economics classes at the High School of Economics in Tirana. When I moved with my family to the United States, I found an accounting position and I am still working in that capacity today. Due to my past experience in teaching and my desire to work with children, I offered my assistance to Shkolla Shqipe. I was a substitute teacher until the last academic year (2014-15), when I gladly accepted a permanent position.

I am very excited about the opportunity to teach the Albanian language and culture to a new Albanian American generation and contribute to this ministry of St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church.

Level Three Teacher

My name is Suzana Combi and I am pleased to be part of Shkolla Shqipe, a ministry of St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church. I teach Level 3 where students are introduced to a deeper level of Albanian grammar and knowledge about Albanian history, geography, and literature. I am one of the first teachers to be part of this school since the first day it opened its doors in September 2007. 

I was born and raised in Albania. After graduating from high school (Pedagogic) in the city of Fier, I continued my studies at the University of Tirana where I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. I moved back to Patos, a small town in western Albania, where I taught at various elementary and middle schools for 25 years. I moved with my family to the United States where I obtained teaching credentials to teach in the Chicago Public School District. I have been teaching at CPS for 12 years. 

For many Sunday’s, while attending Liturgy at St. Nicholas, I noticed a school to teach the Albanian language and culture to children whose families migrated to the US after 1990 did not exist. My desire to start an Albanian school for these kids found a warm welcome and strong support from several members of the St Nicholas community who together established this new ministry. With much love and dedication, I continue to contribute my time and talents to teaching new generations of Albanian Americans

Level Four Teacher

My name is Kristo Panajoti and I am the director and one of the teachers of Shkolla Shqipe. I teach Level 4 which is designed for children from the ages of 11 years old and above. At this level, students are instructed in more advanced concepts of the Albanian language. They begin to learn the rules, principles, and processes that govern words and sentence structure which gives them a framework for understanding how the Albanian language works.

After I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Albanian Language and Literature from the Faculty of Social Science at the Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkoder in Albania, I taught Albanian language and literature to children from the fifth to the eighth grade for six years. For five years, I also held the position of school principal in one of the primary schools in the prefecture of Fier, Albania. My career path changed entirely after coming to the United States. I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago from which I received a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Since then, I have been working as software engineer for Accenture.

When the opportunity arose to contribute to our St. Nicholas Church parish, I jumped at the chance. I feel this was a blessing given to me by allowing me to use my acquired knowledge of the Albanian language to teach the children of the Albanian community in the Chicago area.