From Lead Administrator to Lead Educator

By Mindy Gold

[This article is the first in a four-part series featuring recent graduates of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI). MTEI is a two-year journey of discovery, helping educational leaders transform their educational communities into places where teachers learn together, exploring both Jewish content and how to enrich learning for students.]

MTEI [Mandel Teacher Educator Institute] has helped me professionalize my work so that I feel more like the lead educator as opposed to just the lead administrator at my congregational school. This is a BIG difference and I am extremely grateful to MTEI for this gift!Charlie Sherman, Head of School, Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation, Northfield, IL

Along with thirty-one colleagues from a variety of Jewish educational contexts across the country, Charlie has just completed Cohort 8 of the two-year Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI). Like him, many MTEI graduates report that the experience was transformative. At the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute, participants look deeply at a wide variety of teaching practices, study student work, and practice intensive havruta text study focused on traditional Jewish texts exploring what it is to teach and to learn. This approach invites “slowing down” – a chance to look at daily educational interactions with curiosity and new questions – in order to make teaching more effective and learning more authentic and deep. With the support of an expert faculty, MTEI participants build their capacity as educational leaders in order to return to their organizations and schools ready to build the capacity of their teaching staff and colleagues.

Each seminar we have gathered together and talked about teaching and learning in respectful and curious ways. I have come back from our sessions together with new ideas to share and new practices to try out. Our schools’ professional development would not look the way it has for the last two years without MTEI. The talking about teaching and learning has raised the bar for me about how I want to interact with my faculty around these ideas and what I want to bring to the table. – Suzanne Mishkin, Director of Sager School, Sager Solomon Schechter Day School, Northbrook, IL

MTEI’s work is guided by a set of Principles of Professional Development that is at the core of instruction and consistently modeled by the faculty. One of these principles is the Intentional Creation of Community. Throughout the series of seminars, MTEI participants work on and in a relational learning community, a community of learners paying particular attention to the relationships forming as part of the professional learning process. Here, participants actively build relationships with one another to support their work as lead educators and their simultaneous role as learners of professional learning practices.

I learned so much more by learning with the same cohort over 2 years than I ever learn at stand-alone conferences. By building trust with this group and getting to know one another our learning at each seminar was deeper and richer. – Tziporah Altman-Shafer, Jewish Education Community Planner, Coalition for Jewish Learning, Milwaukee, WI

The MTEI relational learning community does not end when MTEI participants graduate. As Cohort 8 transitions from being participants to graduates, they expand their opportunity to engage with another MTEI principle, Learning Rooted in Collaborative Inquiry. Cohort 8 is now part of a larger network of over 250 MTEI graduates who share a common language about how we, as people, talk to each other and we, as educators, think about teaching and learning. Through ongoing learning in both face-to-face and digital spaces, graduates continue their robust engagement with one another, with havruta text study, and with the practices of teaching and learning. We are proud to be pushing perceived boundaries of online learning in Jewish education to bring the relational and inquiry-based practices of MTEI into online spaces. This includes opportunities ranging from co-constructing learning within a Zoom call to participation in asynchronous, online protocols that deepen our understanding of the challenges of teaching and learning.

As the 32 lead educators of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute’s Cohort 8 head back to their home organizations and schools this fall, they take with them new sensibilities about teaching and learning. Most importantly, they are bringing extraordinary knowledge of how to construct powerful professional learning, rooted in relationships and inquiry, to build their teachers’ capacity to impact student learning.

Mindy Gold is the MTEI Network Weaver. She is also the founder and lead consultant at EdtechMMG. Please reach out via email to mindy@edtechmmg.com. While MTEI Cohort 9 is already full, we are taking names for a waitlist. MTEI Cohort 10 will begin in 2021. For more information about joining an MTEI cohort, please contact MTEI Recruitment Coordinator Sue Bojdak at smbojdak@gmail.com.