February 12, 2009 – Seven teachers in Jewish educational institutions in Miami have been awarded the Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award for 2008, with a $1,000 award to be applied to a continuing education opportunity.
Three years ago Targum Shlishi initiated the Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award, which provides select day school, congregational school, and early childhood teachers with the award in recognition of their contribution to promoting excellence and creativity in their respective schools. The award is administered by the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) Miami, which received a $50,000, five-year grant from Targum Shlishi to promote and recognize Jewish educational leadership in the Greater Miami Jewish community.
Raquel Rubin, co-director of Targum Shlishi, explains the motivation for establishing the award, saying, “We are faced with the challenge of providing our children with high quality Jewish education, and in many ways we are falling short. We should constantly be striving to find ways to promote educational excellence and to motivate and show appreciation to our teachers. We established the awards program to reward educational excellence and creativity at the local level. I hope that other communities will follow our example.”
“Jewish education has been in crisis for years,” adds Aryeh Rubin, founder and director of Targum Shlishi. “Part of the reason for the difficulties is that unfortunately, Jewish educators are not adequately remunerated and do not receive the recognition this noble profession deserves. It takes an extraordinarily dedicated individual to go into this profession. Our award recognizes that dedication.
“However, no number of awards can shift the perceptions of the community and result in more respect and better wages for teachers at Jewish day schools. Ironically, the economic meltdown we are experiencing, coupled with the Madoff scandal, may turn out to have a silver lining for Jewish education. As other professions become less stable, this crisis may reestablish teaching as a prestigious profession and attract the attention and energy of well-educated, young college graduates who will infuse the field with new life and enthusiasm.”
The seven recipients of the 2008 awards are:
Beth Am Day School
A pre-kindergarten teacher at Temple Beth Am Day School, Mrs. Bernstein is an innovative and creative teacher who consistently emerges as a team leader, able to work with a diverse group of teaching partners and to take an integral role in curriculum design and planning. As an educator of young children, she integrates Judaics seamlessly into her curriculum and has contributed to her school and community by developing curriculum ideas that allow young children to learn about Judaism in simple ways that appeal to their senses, their imaginations – and ultimately to their Jewish souls.
Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School
A middle school language arts, Jewish literature, and humanities teacher at the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School, Mrs. Fishbein is a collegial faculty member who seeks to help other teachers improve their practice. She inspires and motivates her students by addressing their unique learning styles and by holding them to high standards. Her classroom, which she views as a workshop, is a place where her students can explore and experiment in a safe, welcoming, and comfortable environment. Mrs. Fishbein feels fortunate that she is able to teach in a setting where she can integrate Jewish values and ethics into her lessons so that her students are able to identify with what they learn and apply it to their lives.
Congregation Bet Breira
Mrs. Friedman is a music educator at the Congregation Bet Breira Schimmel-Binder Religious School. As part of the school’s faculty, Mrs. Friedman incorporates contemporary Jewish music into the school’s curriculum and worship and is also a member of the teen retreat staff. Her contribution to Jewish education has been helping to create Jewish souls by teaching children about Judaism and its music and helping them make the connection between music, spirituality, and their Jewish identity.
Beth Am Day School
A fourth grade teacher at Temple Beth Am Day School, Mrs. Novak is a dedicated member of the faculty who inspires her colleagues, consistently leading the way in generating high level, purposeful learning experiences to engage and challenge students. Mrs. Novak has always felt a responsibility to help young kids feel connected to their past and give them a foundation for ethical, religious, and moral well-being. She feels privileged to be able to teach the whole child by integrating Jewish values with secular subjects. She aspires to help grow a generation of students who will be productive citizens, and who will leave the school feeling a strong sense of connection to their Jewish community and Israel.
Temple Beth Am Religious School
Mrs. Schmalbach is a first grade teacher at Temple Beth Am Religious School. She is a committed and creative Jewish educator who takes professional development seriously and applies what she learns to her practice. Mrs. Schmalbach teaches her students about the Torah, Jewish holiday celebrations, Jewish values, and the meaning of Jewish prayers. She feels that it is important to help Jewish children love Hebrew language, Jewish history, culture, and religion by providing a nurturing and challenging environment that leads them to seek more opportunities to learn.
The Margaux Early Childhood School of Temple Judea and Temple Beth Am Religious School
A second, third, and middle school teacher at Temple Beth Am Religious School and a teacher at the Margaux Early Childhood School of Temple Judea, Ms. Slavin is a master teacher who is dedicated to all her students’ growth, development, and individual learning needs. She is a creative teacher who exudes a love of Judaism and Israel and integrates many different activities into her lessons. Ms. Slavin feels that by being a Jewish educator, she is giving life to the saying “Mi Dor Le Dor.”Educating and guiding students is her way of living Judaism.
Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Greater Miami Hebrew Academy
Mrs. Ze’ev is the outgoing head of the Hebrew Language Department at the Rabbi Alexander S. Gross Greater Miami Hebrew Academy. She is a highly respected, innovative educator who collaborates with her colleagues in all departments to integrate Hebrew language throughout the school. As the head of the Hebrew Language Department, Mrs. Ze’ev feels that her most significant contribution to the school was the development of a professional team of Hebrew teachers with a strong curriculum base. She is proud of her staff and their achievements in the school.
Use of Funds by 2007 Recipients of the Targum Shlishi Teacher Excellence and Creativity Award:
Rabbi Shlomo Ackerman: Purchased materials and electronic equipment for use in the development of an electronic portfolio assessment model for his school. This will involve teaching faculty and students about the value of electronic portfolios and the means by which they can be produced and integrated into the curriculum.
Rachel Baum: Attendance at national CAJE Conference 2007.
Denise Bergman: Applied funds toward tuition for MA in Jewish Education in the Siegel-CAJE Distance Learning Program.
Sue Einhorn: Applied funds toward tuition for MA in Jewish Education in the Siegel-CAJE Distance Learning Program.
Revital Marotz: Educational software and materials for use in Hebrew language instruction in various congregational and day schools.
Laura Medina: Applied funds toward tuition for MA in Elementary Education at Nova University.
Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg: Attendance at Torah U’Mesorah conference, 2008.
Irit Roth: Melton course.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org.
The Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) is deeply committed to Jewish continuity and renewal through quality formal and informal Jewish education. Through its extensive network of day school, early childhood programs, congregational schools, and adult education programs, CAJE endeavors to create an exciting and meaningful Renaissance for Jewish living and learning in the Greater Miami Jewish Community. CAJE is a beneficiary agency for the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. For more information, visit its website at www.caje-miami.org.