CULTURAL WORKER MAGDA PIŠOTEK nee PLEŠKO
Magda Pišotek, as the Primary and Secondary School Teacher had many opportunities to express her ability and professional guidance in contributing to the preparation and coordination of the cultural programs, especially at her teaching posts and the Slovenian Association Melbourne, where she taught symbolic dancing together with her daughter Natasha.
Magda has also edited English versions of the narrative texts for numerious, very succesful cultural programs with a Theme, proposed by Draga Gelt, presented at the Slovenian Association Melbourne.
With Draga they together worked out the details of the productions, sometimes assisted by Maria Penca.
Madda and Maria prepared performance items, coordinated and directed the cultural programs for the 40th and 45th Anniversary of Slovenian Association Melbourne.
“In 1979 I became involved in teaching the Slovenian language on Sundays at the Slovenian Association Melbourne (Eltham).
Slovenian language, cultural programs and concerts were organised and prepared with children who attended the Slovenian school.
The Slovenian language was taught every second Sunday concentrating on grammar, reading and writing. Activities were based on various themes and so all the applications of work were based on a thematic approach. This, in turn, was followed by concerts also based on themes. For example, activities incorporating Slovenian words and grammar based around Mother’s Day were then followed by a concert on Mother’s Day with song, drama, poetry and folk dance.
In 1991, it became evident that there was a need to have a language program which was relevant to Slovenian–Australian children. So Učimo se Slovensko – Let’s Learn Slovenian Parts1, 2 and 3 were written by Draga Gelt OAM, Maria Penca and myself, Magda Pisotek. The three of us compiled the many worksheets that we had used in our classes and made them into a sequential program, publishing the books in 1992 on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the Slovenian School Melbourne.
These programs were relevant to the children and based on themes. The activities comprised of crossword puzzles, dot to dot, unjumble the words, find a word, colour in, labelling, matching pictures to the words and words to pictures.
The classroom was always colourful and the walls depicted the current theme with children’s work displayed all around. I remember the theme of the ‘Sea’ with the classroom transformed into the world of the sea!
As a teacher at the Slovenian school, I found the students were proud of their achievements, especially after a concert or a cultural program.
The children enjoyed wearing Slovenian national costumes.
There were many memorable concerts and performances.
One Mother’s Day concert in particular, I remember vividly. Eight girls dressed up as puppets with windup keys. Natasha Pisotek, then three years old, skipped to each girl pretending to wind them up and as she did, the girls began to move.
The audience clapped as the girls so realistically portrayed puppets moving!
Another very memorable cultural concert was the celebration of the Association’s 30th Anniversary. The opening number was spectacular as 30 marching girls dressed in Slovenian colours marched into the hall carrying red, blue and white streamers and wheeling in a huge float in a the form of a cake.
The audience gasped as Maria Penca, also 30 years old, jumped out of the cake!
Not only were children involved in the cultural program but also adults as well as the teachers! How we danced the ‘Can Can’ and did the splits! This required a lot of energy but it was enjoyed by all.
Another very exciting and memorable event was when the Pope visited Australia and the children dressed in their national costumes representing the Slovenian community at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The children were always a delight to teach and they all contributed to the happy environment, each bringing their unique individuality. The parents were supportive and encouraging of the programs and cultural performances and this was a great help in preparing for cultural performances.
It was indeed a pleasure to teach and so rewarding when the students would come up to the teachers and say, “Thank you for teaching me”. This was indeed memorable.
Keep our traditions alive!
Don’t forget your roots and heritage! Respect and be proud of your heritage and assimilate traditions into your way of life in your new homeland Australia.”
“Once a theme is established planning the dancing and adopting the various movements need to be identified and then executed. Symbolic dancing needs to create the scene, the mood and the atmosphere of the theme.
Throughout the many celebrations and special events the symbolic dancing was very much the focus as it was to deliver and give the message through the dance movements.
To celebrate Slovenian Association’s 30th Anniversary it became very evident that such a celebration needed to have a cake! What better way than to have it wheeled in by 30 marching girls dressed in blue, white and red as well as carrying in streamers which were symbolically held over the heads of the audience in the hall. The magnificent cake was placed in a prominent position and out popped Mrs Maria Penca who herself was 30 years old!
In the 35th the theme w“Coming to Australia” and in the 40th “Looking through the Mirror” had many symbolic movements which were adopted to make the messages conveyed to all.
There were also other significant events such as the “International Year of Peace” and the “150th Anniversary of Australian History “which had many symbolic actions and movements concentrating on conveying the message of such important proceedings. The interweaving of important symbolic movements and then matching up with meaningful music to be able to create a dance which is momentous and prominent to the occasion.”
From Chronicle of Slovenian Schools and Slovenian Language Teachers in Australia by Draga Gelt
Magda is a co-author with Draga Gelt and Maria Penca of the 3 Slovenian Language Manuals Učimo se slovensko – Let’s Learn Slovenian Parts 1, 2 and 3, which is used in Slovenian language schools – primary level, in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, as well as Canada and USA.
Magda and her daughter Natasha has also choreographed a symbolic finale for the cultural program at the Slovenian Rerligious and Cultural centre Kew, Melbourne.