The academy is a little different than most elementary schools. In addition to the regular curriculum, this elementary school focuses on the Armenian culture, language and history. Classes are taught in both English and Armenian. Armenian feast days are celebrated alongside American holidays. During October, which is Armenian culture month, students are immersed in Armenian language, culture, dance and customs.
"We have our own alphabet, which we teach to the youngest children from the beginning," explained Sister Nelly Isin, the school's principal and a member of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception who run the school. "We really insist and instill in the kids the love of their heritage."
"For us the culture is very important," added Melkonian, though she noted that children of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome at the school.
The Armenian Sisters Academy was originally established in 1979 in Watertown by Sister Alphonsa Bedrosia as a preschool to serve the Armenian community. In 1982, she opened the academy in Lexington to allow for the expansion into an elementary and middle school education.
"Beginning in 1983, we added one grade every year," recalled Melkonian, who has been teaching at the school since its inception.
Currently, the school has 61 students from Pre-K through grade 7, although plans are underway to expand next year to include the eighth grade, which Sister Nelly admitted is only a fraction of what the school could accommodate.
"It's not a huge number, but that's ok," she said. "For one student, I won't close."
Sister Nelly only arrived at the school in September, but already has begun instituting plans to move the school forward including repurposing old classroom space and engaging alumni volunteers.
"Many of these former students, who are now parents themselves, volunteer their time and their skills to help our school," Sister Nelly said, point to the example of parent Victoria Zacarian Tarabelsi. Tarabelsi is a graduate of the school who now teaches English as a volunteer in her daughter Talia's kindergarten classroom.
"Our alumni are also working on renovating the library," 'Sister Nelly said, adding that alumni have also donated flat-screen televisions for each classroom that will be linked to the computer system.
"We are rebuilding and reestablishing ourselves," she said. "The important thing is the students, and the parents are happy."