On the evening of March 21, I, along with more than 40 colleagues “from across the country and representing the full spectrum of Jewish life,”* graduated from the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute (MTEI). On April 29, I will graduate from the companion Graduate Certificate in Jewish Education program of the University of Cincinnati. These milestones come after two years of hard work — not only my own, but also of our entire TBS faculty and lay leadership. The purpose of MTEI is to “develop a national cadre of educational leaders [who are] transforming Jewish teaching and learning by engaging their teachers in substantive professional development.” Which meant that not only have I been learning, I’ve been bringing new ideas and practices back to our school, and experimenting with them with our teachers, teen madrichim, and volunteers.
Over the last two years, as a direct result of my learning at MTEI, our teachers and madrichim have:
- participated in Jewish text study during faculty meetings and learned about classroom observation and treating observational records as a different kind of “text” to be studied
- permitted me to observe their classes, and met with me afterwards to discuss these observations and what we might learn together from them
- explored the idea of “relational learning,” and how our relationships with students, madrichim, and peers impact our own and others’ learning
- considered what it means to be a mentor, and to be mentored
- thought deeply about how we approach Jewish texts in the classroom, and how “translation” has many different forms
- practiced new ways of communicating with each other, and with me
- begun collaborating with each other to create a more integrated educational experience for our students
- practiced co-planning lessons, including our recent Passover family education program, as a faculty
… and much more! The impacts of these projects can be seen throughout our learning community. As we all grow as educators, our students are thinking more deeply, and learning in more transformative ways, than ever before. While meaningful, this work has been challenging at times, and I appreciate very much the effort and thought our faculty has put into their participation in it.
Our lay leadership has also benefited from my time at MTEI, participating in visioning exercises I have led, both at Learning Council meetings and at our recent Congregational Retreat. The information we gathered through this process has already had significant impact, and will continue to shape the direction of the educational programming in our congregation — for our upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration year, and well into the future.
During the MTEI seminars, I had the opportunity to study with a talented, internationally-distinguished faculty, at a level of access unparalleled in any other graduate program. The value of such an experience is immeasurable, yet my participation cost our congregation nothing but our time and energy. For this great gift, I am thankful to the Mandel Foundation, whose support makes MTEI possible, and to the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, which funded my travel and tuition for the seminars and 2/3 of my tuition for the Graduate Certificate program. For absorbing the remainder of the financial cost, and for their love, support, and patience (especially during some intense periods of work on papers and projects), I cannot begin to express my gratitude to my husband, Steve, and to my family. I am also thankful to the faculty, madrichim, students and families of Temple Beth Shalom Religious School, for their willingness to go with me on this learning journey; to the Learning Council, for their guidance, dedication, and inspiration; to the Board of Directors, for their support, trust, and leadership; and to Rabbi Jim, my mentor and havruta (learning partner). I look forward to seeing the ways in which the learning we have all done together will help our school and our congregation to grow from strength to strength.
*(Quotes are from http://www.mtei-learning.org, where more information about the program can be found.)