In Philadelphia Cheder, Education is for Teachers Too

For faculty of Cheder Chabad of Philadelphia, education is not just for students. Teachers engage in regular sessions through the school’s highly-developed Teacher Training Program, where they gain support, mentorship, training and resources.

By Reuvena Grodnitzky

For faculty of Cheder Chabad of Philadelphia, education is not just for students. Teachers in preschool through eighth grade engage in regular sessions through the school’s highly-developed Teacher Training Program, where they gain support, mentorship, training and resources.

“It has completely turned around my teaching from thinking of quitting to feeling comfortable, confident and excited to teach,” said Rabbi Nissen Moskowitz, fourth-grade teacher who has taught at the school for seven years. “The sessions have provided me with clear and easy-to-implement skills for classroom management, including connecting to students, how to make a lesson more engaging, and ensuring that students acquire necessary skills.”

According to Moskowitz, Cheder Philadelphia provides a warm and positive atmosphere where students love coming to school, staff is friendly, the administration is supportive and the parents are appreciative.

A Unique Mentorship Program

Cheder’s mentorship program includes a weekly meeting with the division director to discuss educational goals, classroom structure and how to meet students’ emotional needs. New teachers work alongside more experienced ones to gain skills and knowledge.

The entire faculty meets monthly for continued education, in addition to cross-division sharing where teachers collaborate with one another based on what they’ve learned from their own experience. In addition, limudei kodesh teachers are trained in Chumash and kriah standards, while general studies teachers are involved in creating an al taharas hakodesh curriculum.

For the first-time teacher Mushka Pape of Little Rock, AK, Cheder has been the ideal first-time teaching environment.

“Cheder gave me lots of support as we started off the year and they have kept it up throughout the year,” said Pape, who teaches in both the kindergarten and 4-year-old-nursery classrooms. “Aside from weekly–and at sometimes twice weekly–meetings with the preschool director, I was paired with a mentor with whom I discussed classroom setup, structuring the day, transitions, expectations (of the students at different times of day), procedures in the classroom and discipline techniques. The staff at cheder has always been available to help in all ways. It really is a great place to work.”

Cheder hires professional mentors—including Rabbi Levi Feldman, Mrs. Chanie Feldman, Rabbi Koppel Chaiton—in addition to staffing qualified administrators who can advise as well. Throughout the year, faculty attend various sessions from presenters from across the region on topics such as differentiated instruction, classroom management, connecting with students and children’s mental health.

An Environment of Growth

Cheder Philadelphia was established in 5764/2003 with four students in a private home’s basement, and has grown tremendously since. Ten years later it enrolled 75 students, and this year is educating 152 students. It is projected that for the 5782/2021 school year, Cheder will enroll 170 students.

Over the past five years, Cheder Philadelphia has trained 13 post-seminary girls who have since moved on to teaching positions in other locations. Currently, about 10 Cheder teachers are making use of the mentorship program, with even more undergoing training in specific fields.

“With so many different methods, theories and classes available, there is always something new to learn,” said Blumie Gurevitz, Cheder’s curriculum coordinator and supervisor. “Each new course helps us learn how to identify different students’ learning processes and overall growth. Implementing these varying strategies helps us reach each student individually in the way that he or she can learn and grow best.”

Gurevitz, who has been teaching at Cheder Philadelphia for 15 years, characterizes the school as a “community where teachers and staff work together to support each other and their students.”

“Nothing is done in a vacuum,” she says. “Students are viewed as a whole child, from the social, emotional and academic perspectives.”

Preschool director Chaya’le Levin echoes her sentiments.

“Our behavioral approach is an emotionally responsive practice,” said Levin, who oversees classes of students aged 3-5, “creating good structure in the classroom, building connection with individual students and positive reinforcement of desired behavior.”

An Advanced Skill-Set

For Cheder principal, Rabbi Mendy Levin, who has been leading the school community for eight years, guiding teachers to connect to each student individually, modeling Ahavas Yisroel and creating a positive-focused classroom environment are major goals of the school as a whole, and the mentorship program in particular.

“Teaching children effectively, and helping them grow in their Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit, academically, socially and emotionally takes the combination of multiple skills,” said Levin. “Often a new teacher needs a lot of guidance to get on his/her feet. We have seen these new teachers become expert mechanchim through the training, and we see their students experience significant growth throughout the school year as a result.”

For more information about joining the Cheder Chabad of Philadelphia teaching community, contact Rabbi Mendy Levin at rabbilevin@chederphiladelphia.org.

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