In fall 2019, pre-pandemic and a month into my deanship at the William Davidson School, I was approached by a community day school administrator seeking support with what has by now become infamously known as “the pipeline issue”: the pressing challenge of attracting and retaining Judaics classroom teachers to fill increasingly vacant positions. He described in detail what would be the first of many similar narratives I would hear from day school leadership over the ensuing months, which increased in urgency during the pandemic. Many of this day school’s strongest and most veteran teachers were looking toward retirement, and school leadership were in need of strategy for recruiting novice teachers. He wondered: How might Jewish education teacher preparatory programs, such as the one we facilitate at our graduate school, support such an effort?
As I listened to the frustration in the administrator’s plea, I heard an invitation to co-imagine strategies for enlarging the pool of trained teachers who might persevere through the growing pains of the first years of teaching to become valued faculty members. Beyond a request for more teachers, beyond a simplistic casting the problem as a supply chain issue, was the question of how programs such as ours could message and brand Judaics classroom teacher as a viable career, an affordable career—a career of value, in all respects.