Why would a teacher choose to remain at the same school for 18 years?
Leah Sid, middle school Hebrew language teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford,-says that she will remain at the school "as long as I love children and I love to teach."
Sid, a former teacher in Israel who lives in Upper Saddle River, received a Keren Schechter Award last Thursday at the school’s third annual Community Tefilah Service. Also receiving the award, which recognizes 18 years of service to the school, were educators Tamar Barnea and Beryl Bresgi.
According to Head of School Rabbi Stuart Saposh, the service, which drew about 150 students, faculty, and friends of the school, "provides an opportunity for us to recognize the accomplishments of our eighth-graders, especially in the area of tefilah. It is also an appropriate time to honor and memorialize members of the school community."
Saposh is proud of the SSDS faculty and says the school gives them "a chance to grow and take risks."
"Our teachers are part of a caring, supportive group with similar values," he says,
You’ve got to make your classes full of life so the children
noting that the school has many teachers who have been there more than 10 years. One, Adrienne Wolk, has been with the school since it opened in 1974.
Barnea recalls that when she began teaching at the school, the student body was less than 300. Today it is over 600.
"When there were fewer teachers," she says, "we were like a family. Now, with over 100 teachers, we’re like a community."
Barnea, a Fort Lee resident who originally taught in Israel, began her Schechter career as a third-grade teacher. Today, she teaches Judaic studies to fourth-graders touching on Torah, Chumash, Hebrew language, holidays, and tefilah (prayer).
"Teachers today are better trained to identify children’s special needs and capabilities," she says, detailing changes over the past 18 years. "There are also more professionals in the school who can take care of specific needs of individual students."
Bresgi recalls when the library was a musty room in the basement of the school’s original facility in Englewood. Today, the library boasts some 13,000 volumes as well as many multimedia offerings, including videos, CDs, and books on tape.
"The library is very widely used," she says. Still, noting that today’s students occupy themselves more with media than with books, she urges that "we encourage our kids to read more."
Bresgi says the library, a bright and inviting facility, offers different skills to varying age groups.
"For the lower grades, I present only books," she says. "For the older grades, I teach research skills, the effective use of Google, and how to evaluate Websites."
Saposh notes that over the past 18 years, the school has doubled in size and become more diverse, with increasing numbers of Israeli students as well as families who may not be "automatically inclined to send their children to day school. These families are looking to grow as Jews," he says.
Of the 55 students in the graduating class, more than a dozen participated in the Community Tefilah Service, leading Shaharit, reading Torah, and delivering the dvar Torah. The three teachers being honored received aliyot and were presented with siddurim dedicated by the school in their honor. The presentations were made by students, who spoke of each teacher’s unique contribution to the school.
Also receiving a siddur were Avi and Jackie Oz, the recipients of this year’s SSDS Tree of Life Award.
As is customary, the service included a memorial prayer for those members of the Schechter community who died during the year. This year, the school mourned the loss of three parents, Jerry Fink, David Taubenfeld, and Dana Marcus.
"It’s been an interesting journey," says Bresgi, whose three children have attended the school. "It’s a warm and wonderful place, a nurturing environment."
Echoing the sentiment, Sid describes her philosophy of teaching.
Isaac Norich was incorrectly identified last week as the president of the Forward Association. His son, Samuel Norich serves as the executive director of the Forward Association. Also, Anita Norich was incorrectly identified as Isaac Norich’s wife; she is his daughter.
"You’ve got to make your classes full of life so the children will love it," she says. "They should come with a smile and leave with a smile."