HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
Teaching with Love and Faith
A good teacher can teach you something that you will remember for a day; a great teacher will teach you something that you will remember for the rest of your life. Several of the defining teachers in my life came to me at a time when I needed them the most during my days as a student at the Shlenker School.
I was diagnosed early on with an auditory learning disability, and it hindered my ability to analyze and make sense of information that my teachers were trying to impart. Seeing that other students could understand new information long before I was able to process and comprehend it greatly lowered my confidence. My learning disability coupled with my diminished self-esteem made school difficult and not enjoyable for me.
The teacher who changed my life and helped me reach my full potential was my second grade teacher, Judy Zainfeld. She was unforgettable as a mentor. She was the first teacher who really took an interest in me and gave me the tools necessary to overcome my learning disability. She taught me that having a learning disability would not limit my potential, but that I should embrace it and use it to my advantage. She took the time to add in visual aids and examples when explaining a new concept. She required me to actively participate and asked me thought-provoking questions to be sure I understood the concept. She suggested books to read and helped me figure out what subjects I was most passionate about.
Mrs. Zainfeld had faith in me, and that faith galvanized me as a student. She never let me forget that I possessed special talent. In her class, I went from a shy and quiet student to a student who loved to learn. Because I didn’t want to let her down, I worked extra hard to make sure my learning disability no longer held me back. She set the stage for future learning, and she is one of the main reasons I perform so well in school today.
There were several other teachers at the Shlenker School who helped transform me into a successful student, and I am grateful to Shlenker for giving me the tools necessary to achieve my dreams. The seven critical core values of the school, including knowledge, faith and character, are the reasons why I am who I am today. This past summer I received my master’s degree in marine biology, and this fall I began a PhD program in this subject. I have received scholarships and grants to support my research, and have been asked to give several talks at major scientific conferences.
I still use the lessons that Mrs. Zainfeld taught me at Shlenker, as they have been proven to be invaluable throughout my graduate school career. Two of the most important abilities a teacher can have are to make learning enjoyable and influence students to be the best at whatever they dream to be. Mrs. Zainfeld exemplifies that.
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Day schools aim to transmit a passion for Judaism to their students. Parents send their children to day school because they want them to cultivate a love of Judaism in all its dimensions. The articles in this issue explore the vital but elusive notion of Jewish inspiration from various angles. How do we define it, measure it, and recognize when we've achieved it? What does a school need to do to become a place that inspires students, faculty and all who work there? In what ways can schools undertake a process of change to improve in their work of inspiring students? And what do students and alumni tell us inspired them? Come to read, learn and be inspired for your work in Jewish education.
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