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Teaching, and more specifically, teaching Jewish education, is something that is

embedded into my very DNA. I did not grow up aspiring to be a lawyer or a doctor like
some others, and fall back on teaching. Being raised by and around educators instilled in
me a desire and thirst to continue a legacy, a mission. Both my maternal and paternal
grandfathers had rabbinic degrees and began their careers as teachers; they each
formulated and changed the lives of countless people. My paternal grandfather, a
Holocaust survivor from a shtetl in the former Czechoslovakia, started a Hebrew Day
School in Denver, Colorado. He was the patriarch for the entire Jewish community he
had built from the ashes of Auschwitz. My grandfather had little formal training to be a
teacher and principal; however, his mission in counteracting Hitlers was all he needed to
raise in becoming a master educator. This mission, this life goal and dream was, I believe,
passed down to my siblings and me. They themselves have not ignored this internal
calling and are both currently teaching Jewish children as well; one is a graduate of
From a very early age, my vision of what teaching, what a classroom, what
education at large looked like was clear to me. I have always believed quite strongly that
children innately want to learn. A teacher is nothing more than someone who is gifted and
skilled in the art of enabling, guiding, and facilitating. The view of children being similar
to an empty vessel waiting to be filled by the vast knowledge of the teacher is something
of the past. Every student comes into the classroom with his or her own special
uniqueness and abilities, his or her own interests and aversions. I do not wish to be the
teacher who is remembered for covering the curriculum to the point, or for making sure
every student memorizes information he will likely never use again in his life. Rather, I
want to be remembered as the teacher who cared, the teacher who made students laugh
and enjoy learning but also knew how to quiet a class with a mere stare. I want to be a
teacher who allows students and children to grow and develop into their own unique
greatness at their own pace.
A classroom is a place that needs to be a safe environment for children to risk and
challenge themselves without feeling self-conscious or scared. Children seem gentle and
unassuming many times but, from my experience, they are due much more credit than we
give them. I never want to be a teacher who rules with fear and creates a hostile

environment. True growth requires nurturing like any good botanist or parent will tell
you. The less one worries about covering ground and information and worries more about
creating a class culture of acceptance and patience will ultimately be the teacher who is
For this ideal classroom to come to fruition, there are things that are incumbent on
me to do as well. I have trained myself to become a guide on the side teacher. Students
need clear instruction and structure in the classroom; however, once that is accomplished,
I like to leave the rest up to their creative minds. I steer away from any type of busy
work; there is a plethora of creative and productive activities that students enjoy doing.
As much as I can cut down from frontal teaching and move towards guided assistance, I
do. These are not my own innovative practices; teachers I have had in my school career
have shaped and molded me as such. The teachers who stand out in my mind as great or
master teachers taught this way. I remember enjoying learning from these teachers, not
necessarily remembering or recalling specific information they taught but knowing that
they ensured that I maintained an overall sense of desire and thirst to learn.
My paternal grandfather, of whom I spoke briefly earlier, had a major impact on
me as a person and, of more significance to this piece, as an educator. After he arrived on
American soil after the living nightmare of the Holocaust, my grandfather had one
mission-to ensure the continuation of Jewish education and Jewish vitality. Because my
uncle has severe asthma, my grandparents, along with my father, moved to the Mile High
city, Denver, Colorado. Immediately, my grandfather founded the Hillel and a synagogue
nearby for the few unaffiliated Jews found in this town. Due to my grandfathers
incredible life story and experiences, he quickly became the beloved patriarch of a
growing community. He was everyones rav as well as everyones sabbah. I remember
him telling me with great joy and pride an anecdote about his time as principal,
something that stuck with me for a very long time. He related to me how, when even the
worst behaved students came into his office because the teacher couldnt handle them
anymore, he would right away give them lollipop and smiles, something these children
most probably lacked in some way or another. He gave them his time and his care. He
told me how frightening a child and yelling was something that became humanly
impossible for him to do after his experiences. He would go on talking about the root of

why children misbehave and how we as educators can quickly and creatively use that
energy for good.
His lessons profoundly formed and shaped my philosophy as a teacher. It is a way
of looking at the teacher as facilitator and helping hand, not an authoritative power
mongrel seeking that children learn x, y, and z, and thats all. I hope and aspire to emulate
my grandfather and live by his educational philosophy as it becomes my own.