Milana "Mim" Bizic stepped away from the classroom more than five years ago, but the Moon Township woman said teaching isn't something she'll quit any time soon.
In the late 1980s, the former librarian and teacher in the Quaker Valley school district helped to shape its early computer education program. Now she continues to turn to her computer as she dedicates herself to becoming an amateur historian with a decidedly new-media twist.
Bizic, whose grandparents emigrated from Serbia to Western Pennsylvania, said preserving and sharing her ancestors' culture has become her life’s passion.
Bizic's Serbian roots run deep. She met her late husband Gus more than 50 years ago at a picnic for Pittsburgh's Serbian community. Her son Nick and young granddaugther, who reside in Texas, both were raised with Serbian ideals, she said.
From her suburban home in Moon Township where she's lived for 21 years, Bizic, 69, operates the Serbian heritage website Babamim.com. On her site, her readers around the world can reference everything Serbian, from wedding traditions to the country's World War II history.
“It’s about standing up for what you believe in and your heritage,” said Bizic. “It’s about not being ashamed of where you come from.”
Bizic’s command of Serbian history is so thorough that it caught the eye of officials from the U.S. Department of State. In August, she hosted a film crew from the department who featured her in a documentary about Serbian-American relations. A release date for the film hasn't been announced.
When it came time for the interview conducted by Serbian television personality Jugoslav Cosic, Bizic said she wasn’t nervous.
"I had all this food made," she said with a laugh. "They were so sorry that they had to run out, but they were on a tight schedule."
Preserving Serbian-American heritage runs in Bizic's family. Her father, Milan Karlo, was a Serbian-American journalist who worked in Pittsburgh and Chicago. In 1984, he wrote the book The Early Years: Serbian Settlers in America and in 1948 conceived the now-defunct monthly magazine Serb Life.
His career focused on documenting the lives and often the struggles of immigrant Serbians, many of whom labored in Western Pennsylvania's mills and coal mines, Bizic said.
Bizic, with her homegrown technological savvy, now helps to keep her father’s legacy alive by communicating with her readers in myriad countries via her website, which she updates regularly.
“It was something I loved right away,” Bizic said of working with computers. “I just love it, and I’m fascinated by it.”
Bizic became interested in computer science in the early 1980s, when she took a class through Pennsylvania State University’s Beaver branch campus in Beaver County.
Using skills she polished while taking additional college courses, Bizic helped bring to life some of the earliest computer science courses in the Quaker Valley district, instructing students from elementary to high school in basic word processing, data entry and creating spreadsheets.
“We only had one computer at the time, but it was sort of magnificent,” said Bizic of teaching her first computer classes. “We really were the first to be teaching these things in the school, and we had some creative ways to get kids involved.”
After retiring in 2004, Bizic has devoted much of her time to shining a light on the history of Serbian Americans and the vibrant community they created in and around Pittsburgh.
“Everyone says to me, there’s no way you’re retired,” Bizic said with a laugh. “They’ll say, 'You used to have a classroom. Now you have a whole world to teach.' ”