Those who Can…will teach!: The Jewish Day School Teacher Re-Design 2017

Photo courtesy Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies

By Rabbi Michael Shire

The key to the future of Jewish Day Schooling in North America is without doubt the quality and experience of the classroom teacher. As Prizmah, the new national body for all of Jewish Day schooling establishes itself, there is a renewed energy for the intensive, comprehensive and deeply transformative educational setting that is the Jewish Day School. For over 10 years Hebrew College and the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem supported by the AVI CHAI Foundation have partnered to develop a cadre of premiere classroom teachers for North American Jewish Day Schools richly proficient in Biblical and Rabbinic texts and vision driven pedagogic skills with applications to the Day School classroom. For over 50 alumni now teaching in 35 schools across the Continent, their reputation is sterling as excellent pedagogues, beloved of their students, reflective practitioners of their art and increasingly mentors, guides, coaches, supervisors of novice teachers in their own and other schools. They teach in Orthodox, Schechter, Reform and pluralist day schools, the majority tackling the Jewish studies and Toshba curricula of 7-12th graders. They can be found from Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia, as well as in Boston, New York, Chicago, Montreal and LA and everywhere in-between. They are enthusiastic, well-formed and deliberative in their practice and joyful in their reunions and professional learning opportunities with their fellow alumni and former teachers from the Pardes Institute and Hebrew College.

We are now pleased to announce enhancements to this program that will provide more access to this prestigious program with financial aid, a greater variety of educational learning opportunities allowing for specialization electives and a reduction in the overall cost due to increasing use of embedded technology. Commencing in Fall 2017 students will be integrated into Hebrew College online courses attended by our student body around the world. The Pardes Day School Educator students will gain from interacting with a wide range of other aspiring professionals as they all pursue their course work together in our robust online environment.

All Pardes Day School Educator students will have a designated academic advisor who will work with them to make any appropriate adjustments to their course plan. This will be especially important as the students have the opportunity to elect to take specialization courses such as special needs or experiential education. The students will continue to benefit from the Seminar in Jewish Day Schools which will include the visits to Boston area day schools under the direction of a Hebrew College faculty leader. Pardes students will join graduating students in the Graduate Research Seminar conceptualizing a small scale research problem of practice. Pardes students will have the opportunity and privilege to virtually present their final projects in Jerusalem to the larger Hebrew College community as well as the Pardes community.

This new configuration of fewer required academic credits results in a reduction of the overall cost and for the first time opens up the possibility of needs based financial aid for eligible students.

Our current student body in the Master’s of Jewish Education program is comprised of 50% already working in Jewish day schools in various capacities. The Pardes students will benefit from the “best of all worlds” as they continue in the beit midrash in Jerusalem, have on campus pedagogic classes and join a world wide student body online virtually broadening their circle of colleagues. This will also give them wider exposure to the Hebrew College faculty and the leadership of the Jewish community of North America and beyond. Our current Cohort 17 will enter their second year of the program incorporating the new paradigm while completing their program as originally designed.

As we recruit for this exciting educational opportunity for Cohort 18, we are proud to be able to continue to offer a re-energized and attractive program for the next generation of Jewish Day School teachers for North America. There has never been a better time to consider a contribution to the future of Jewish life through teaching and Hebrew College and the Pardes Center for Jewish Educators welcome all enquiries.

Rabbi Michael Shire is Chief Academic Officer at Hebrew College.