The beginnings go back to 1872, when several immigrants established a charter and created the Freethinkers Bohemian School Association. They offered Czech language courses in school buildings and Sokol halls in the Chicago area. Later, the schools stopped allowing the Czech language courses to be taught there, and the group decided to build its own school. When completed and opened in 1921, it was originally called the Thomas G. Masaryk Free Thought School where it continued to offer classes.
President Andy Buitas has been serving in his role at the school since 1995. At that time, the school consolidated various programs and organizations. In 2012, the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic recognized the contributions of the school, and assigned educator Klára Moldová to expand and improve the programs.
Moldová shares teaching duties with Irena Cajka and three other native Czech speakers. Thanks to their links with the Czech government, the teachers access regular educational tools, books, and materials for the students to use. The regular Czech language classes are offered for adults and for children. Adults are offered beginner classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and intermediate and advanced classes on Mondays. Both levels are from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The Jan Neruda Club meets on Mondays from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and is for seniors to explore language as well as history and culture. Children age 6 to 15 are offered classes based on age on Saturdays. The children can become fluent speakers through the school. Classes for both adults and children are held September to December, and January to May. In the summer, a summer-school is taught by guest teachers from the University of Prague (Czech Republic).
Renáta Fučíková presents to a class at T. G. Masaryk Czech School.
The school also facilitates a relationship with the Czech Republic where special guests come and provide added richness to the programs for students and the community. The guests range from authors and musicians to government representatives. Thursday night is cultural night, and the community is invited to participate in programs held by the special guests. On Saturdays, the guests teach in the classroom.
The school engages regularly with the local community. They offer the building to various groups who want to hold small meetings, gatherings, and even hold college-accredited Spanish courses. In exchange, the school asks the organizations to give what they can to use the building, and to take care of the room cleaning. This agreement has worked out well for many years.
The school representatives typically reach out in community activities, and get involved in a range of holidays and celebrations, and not just Czech-related ones. Teachers, Moldová and Cajka, are involved in regular visits to the Czech Republic, and also a yearly conference called Czech Schools Without Borders to discuss curriculum with other Czech teachers.
The school is organizing a tour of the Czech Republic and Slovakia for July 27 - August 9. If you are interested in more information about the tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 708-656-9810. They are also working on special events to celebrate 100 years in 2021. Other community events are usually posted on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MasarykCzechSchool/. The school relies largely on donations to keep running.
Buitas stressed that much of the school's success was due to the teachers, community support, relationship with the local community, and the excellent rapport and recognition they have received from the Czech Republic. Last August, Buitas attended a meeting for Western's No. 330 (Brookfield, IL) as a guest speaker to discuss the history of the school. No. 330 made a donation to the school's roof fundraiser, and has helped in the school gardens.
Those interested in learning more about the school can visit czechschoolchicago.org. Western thanks T. G. Masaryk Czech School President Andy Buitas and No. 330 Secretary Rose Mary Davis for providing information used in this article.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.