Category Archives: Uncategorized

Our Clinical Educators: Sarah Rines

SDJAThis week we meet Sarah Rines, Clinical Educator at San Diego Jewish Academy.

As a teacher of 12 years, I was beginning to feel a need for “more” and DeLeT was just the answer!  I am so thankful
to my Head of School, Chaim Heller, for suggesting the program, and to DeLeT for collaborating with us at the San Diego Jewish Academy where I have been teaching for 7 years.  Prior to coming to SDJA, I worked as a middle school science teacher in public schools as well as for Cal State San Marcos as a Teacher Supervisor for their teacher education program.

Being a Clinical Educator has opened my eyes to the art of teaching and learning once again.  Every teacher should have the opportunity to join up with other educators, both new and experienced every 10 years (or more often) to reflect on where they have been and what they have learned since they began teaching.  Reviewing the Elements of Effective Instruction, differentiation, and Understanding by Design through my work with my fellows has sparked my own desire to go back and make sure that I am still doing what I originally set out to do in my early days of teaching- inspire and motivate young minds to make the most of the science education they are offered.  Working with the fellows and seeing their creativity, innovation and motivation in the classroom has reminded me of the power of good teaching, collaboration and feedback.

Fellow Profile: Elena Kohn

Elena Kohn is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. She is completing her internship in 3rd and 5th grade classrooms at Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School in Palo Alto, CA.

ImageElena grew up as a rabbi’s daughter in Redlands, CA. She participated in many different Jewish educational experiences as a child, ranging from religious school to summer camp, and even completed a semester of high school in Israel. When she was in college, she decided to minor in Jewish studies, and learn about her religion from an academic perspective. She was able to delve deeply into Jewish history and literature, learning new things about her own religion. She fell in love with how much Judaism has to offer, and how different interpretations are celebrated.

Through college, she had been teaching religious school, and also doing a lot of work with at-risk youth; she found that she loved working with children. When she heard about DeLeT and learned that she could combine teaching with Jewish life, she was very excited. She had worked in informal education, but had felt drawn to formal education. She was also looking forward to being a part of students’ everyday lives, instead of only seeing them on Sundays. When she was accepted into DeLeT, she was thrilled.

Elena came to a few unexpected findings once she started the DeLeT program. First, she did not realize the amount of work, organization, and planning went into teaching. There should be thought and consideration put into every teaching choice, and that can be overwhelming at times. Also, she was not expecting how much she was going to end up relying on the relationships she built with the cohort, as well as the DeLeT faculty. Elena finds that she is someone who, in the past, did not open herself up to new relationships very easily, but she has found that having the support network of her cohort and faculty members have been crucial to her this year.

Elena’s general studies mentor, Rose Nolen, has been teaching at Hausner for 19 years and is retiring at the end of this year. Though she knew this was going to be her last year in the classroom, Rose opted to be a first-time mentor in the DeLeT program. She said that it’s valuable to have someone in the room with a fresh set of eyes, and has shown Elena that teaching is an ever-evolving craft. Elena has also seen the benefits of collaboration; Rose, Elena, and their co-teacher have developed a collaborative partnership that helps the third grade team run like clockwork.

Ora Gittelson-David is Elena’s Judaic studies mentor in a fifth grade classroom. Ora was a DeLeT fellow herself, from Cohort 2 at HUC-JIR. Elena gets to see much of DeLeT’s philosophy in action in Ora’s classroom. She uses Responsive Classroom, an approach to education and classroom management that is taught in DeLeT, and even uses modified versions of curricula that she wrote while she was a DeLeT fellow. Ora is primarily a middle school teacher, and treats the fifth graders accordingly— she holds the students accountable for their own learning, and often talks about making responsible choices. Elena feels that she is really benefitting from being an intern with these two different age groups, and having the opportunity to learn from these two wonderful mentors.

When she looks toward the future, Elena sees herself as a teacher who values learning that is active on the part of both the student and the teacher. She thinks that teaching should be a collaborative effort; teachers should work both among themselves and with their students to create curricula. She also places a high value on reflection, and believes that students and teachers should reflect regularly on their work to ensure that they continue to progress. Elena is looking forward to continuing the mentoring process through HUC’s induction program in the coming years, and is excited to be able to further develop her teaching persona in her own classroom.

Our Clinical Educators: Bonnie Sharfman

Bonnie Sharfman is a DeLeT Instructor, Clinical Educator, Credential Coordinator, and Induction Coordinator.

ImageAlthough this is a CE profile, I wear many hats at DeLeT, and thought I would describe each of my roles.

Starting in 2007, Michelle Shwartz and I wrote the standards to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) for DeLeT to offer a preliminary multiple subject teaching credential. Since that time, as DeLeT Credential Coordinators we have continued to update the standards, lead the accreditation team, and support DeLeT fellows in completing the preliminary state credential requirements.

As a consequence of offering a preliminary credential, DeLeT developed an induction program to support DeLeT alumni to “clear” their preliminary credentials. In 2009-2010 I wrote the induction standards to the CTC and was named the DeLeT Induction Program Coordinator. With the help of the seven induction program clinical educators, over the past four years we have supported over 30 DeLeT alumni and beginning teachers in Jewish day schools to clear their credentials.

I also teach the Physical Education & Jewish Values course. I began my teaching career at Temple Emanuel Community Day School as a PE teacher. I’m always thrilled to see the developmental growth of the fellows as beginning teachers by the time they take PEJV in the spring.

My favorite role in DeLeT is as a Clinical Educator! I am so lucky that I have been able to develop professional relationships with the fellows and beginning teachers who I have mentored in both DeLeT and the DeLeT Induction Program. I am honored to work with so many wonderful colleagues, mentors, principals, and heads of school throughout California. My greatest satisfaction is to see the DeLeT fellows and alumni grow as teachers in their roles as Jewish educators, touching the lives of their students and school communities.

Pictured below are the DeLeT fellows participating in Bonnie’s PEJV class, experiencing how learning can be enhanced by physical engagement. 


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Meet the Mentor: Paula Frost


This week we meet Paula Frost, 3rd grade teacher at the Wise School in Los Angeles.

Throughout my thirty plus years as a teacher at Stephen S. Wise, I have been asked to participate in various programs, chair committees, and attend educational conferences, but nothing has been more rewarding than being a DeLeT mentor.

The outstanding faculty at Wise is always looking for ways in which we can improve our ability to differentiate our teaching and reach out to our students. Through our partnership with USC Rossier School of Education, students have acquired assorted prompts and strategies, some of which are to identify the big idea, look for details, and make observations using multiple perspectives. We also ask our students to continue to question. As a DeLeT mentor we encourage our interns to do much the same, “to notice”, “to wonder”, and “to ask”. To dialog with an intern is truly a gift for it has allowed me to think and question my own teaching.

This is my third time mentoring a future Jewish educator. I am so grateful to Michael Zeldin for asking me to be a part of this outstanding program. Meeting DeLeT staff, and learning along with fellow mentors, professors, and clinical educators is truly a blessing. Thank you!

Meet the Mentor: Rebecca Feld

This week we meet Rebecca Feld, first grade teacher at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles.

PAI have been in Jewish day school education my whole life. As a child, I attended Jewish private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. I received my bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 1989 and my master’s degree from Hunter College. I spent the next 24 years teaching in Jewish education in New York and Los Angeles.

I had been teaching first and second grade in a few different Jewish day schools and always commented that no one really knew the day to day struggles that I faced. My assistants were almost always parents who needed financial aid for their children and were not in the least bit interested in my teaching philosophy. They were amazing assistants, don’t get the wrong idea, but no one cared why I chose one method over another. No one questioned or challenged my teaching on a daily basis. They just did what I told them to do because after all I was the teacher in the room.

And then two years ago, after only one year teaching first grade at Pressman, I became a DeLeT mentor. I was flattered when I was asked to participate in this program, but I was also nervous at the prospect of someone questioning my teaching and methodologies. Will I have the answers? Will I actually be able to prove if my “tried and true methods” worked? I immediately began to think about fellow colleagues that have had a positive and lasting impact on my teaching career. What made the informal support they offered me so meaningful? I was so excited to be able to provide for new teachers the caring support that I had received informally.

This is my third year as a DeLeT mentor and I am thrilled to be a part of this program. As we begin each morning meeting with Responsive Classroom, my DeLeT fellow joins us as we build our classroom community. We set the tone for our day together and we connect to our students as a team. Whether it is Reading, Phonics, Handwriting, Writing Workshop or Everyday Math, my DeLeT fellow knows that I welcome all concerns and inquiries that he might have.

Moreover, beyond being able to give back to Jewish education through being a DeLeT mentor, I firmly believe that my teaching has been strengthened as a result. My day to day struggles are now shared with someone who cares, who is eager to learn and who works with me on making my teaching even stronger. I am constantly engaged in dialogue with my fellow, as I explain the rationale to the many different aspects of the curriculum. With the help of the CE and the mentor shiurim, I do my best to give the caring support and guidance that all new teachers need. Thank you DeLeT for providing me with this tremendous opportunity!

Fellow Profile: Ilana Rabin

Ilana Rabin is a member of Cohort 12, and is completing her internship in a 6th grade classroom at the Wise School in Los Angeles, CA.

Image“Teacher” is quite often an inherited trait, and the profession tends to run in families. Ilana grew up helping in her mother’s religious school classroom, and was soon given her own classroom. She saw that though her mother was not formally trained to be a teacher, she was a natural—she kept her cool, related to each child as an individual, and was able to get her students to care about the material she taught. Ilana tries to emulate that now as she begins her formalized teaching career.

Ilana grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and completed her undergraduate work at UCSD, where she was active in Hillel. The Hillel director told her about the DeLeT program, and she was immediately interested. She was not sure what she wanted for a career, but she knew that she wanted to help people and make the world a better place. The DeLeT program allowed her to combine that with her love of teaching, and also allowed her to do it all through a Jewish lens.

Coming from a large school, Ilana found the small-group learning aspect of the program appealing, as well as the fact that she would be able to earn her credential in only 13 months. Also, Ilana was attracted to how DeLeT would give her the opportunity to apply her learning directly to the field through an apprenticeship model. She knew this program was right for her.

Before DeLeT, Ilana used to feel most comfortable when she worked independently. She was happy on her own, and did not view collaboration as an asset. However, after her experience working with her cohort, she was surprised at how important collaboration has become to her. Now, she views it as the cornerstone to her success in the program.

Ilana is completing her internship at Wise School. She says that there is a lot of collaboration among the faculty, as well as openness to change and flexibility. They base their curriculum around Enduring Understandings, the same way Ilana is being taught to write curricula in the DeLeT program. Wise is a powerhouse in the Jewish community, and the students take pride in that; they love their school, and have a strong sense of belonging.

One course at DeLeT that was eye-opening for Ilana was the Day School and Society course. For the capstone assignment, the DeLeT fellows were charged with designing a start-up plan for a day school. Ilana realized that she had a knack for thinking about day school education from this perspective, and that though she is passionate about classroom teaching, but can affect more change from outside of the classroom than from within.

Consequently, Ilana decided to continue her graduate education path after the completion of DeLeT; she is continuing to HUC’s joint master’s program in Jewish Education and Non-Profit Management, and leaves to spend her first year in Israel shortly after DeLeT graduation. She is excited to help affect change on a larger scale—she wants every day school to be infused with the ideologies she has been exposed to at DeLeT, is looking forward to being able to start bringing that vision to fruition. The entire Jewish education community will benefit from her contributions.


Meet the Mentor: Debbi Seligman

This week we meet Debbi Seligman, fourth grade teacher at Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City, CA

WornickFive years ago I got a phone call from my friend and colleague, Kaylee Frager. DeLeT was looking for mentors and she suggested that I get involved. Not sure exactly what I was getting into, I agreed to be a mentor. Little did I know that I had just made the best decision of my professional career.

Becoming a DeLeT mentor has forced me to look critically at my teaching strategies. When you have someone in the back of the room saying, “I noticed that you did…” and “I wondered why you did…” all day, every day, you need to come up with some answers quickly! Along with my fellows, I learned about Understanding By Design, Critical Friends Protocols, and Responsive Classroom and began incorporating these ideas into my pedagogy.

Over the last five years my teaching has changed considerably. I have become the queen of integration. Along with my teaching team (all of whom happen to be either DeLet Mentors, alumni, or current fellows!) we have begun teaching a unit we call JSTEM – Judaism, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – which looks at the essential question: “How can science, technology, engineering and math be used to fulfill mitzvoth?” Our students delve into Jewish texts, research current inventions, and utilize design strategies to create the next generation of innovations – all with the goal of making the world a better place.

I could go on and on about the gifts DeLeT has given me, but the greatest gift has been the people with whom I’ve had the fortune to work. The professors, the DeLeT staff, the other mentor teachers, each have provided me with opportunities to think, laugh and grow. And the fellows themselves – they have become my colleagues, confidants, and dear friends.

Thank you, DeLeT, for the opportunities you have provided me. I can’t wait to see where we’ll be in another five years!

Fellow Profile: Gilad Weisner

Gilad Weisner is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. He is completing his internship in 1st and 7th grade classrooms at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles, CA.


Before Gilad entered DeLeT, he worked in entertainment marketing. He thought that he had found his career—but after five years of working at advertisement agencies and teaching religious school on the weekends, he found himself really drawn to his work in the classroom. The director of the religious school he worked at saw that he was considering a career of formalized Jewish education, and told him about DeLeT.

Gilad was surprised at how much work it is to become a teacher. He considers teachers to be our “unsung heroes,” and is impressed at the amount of impact that a teacher can have on a student. While he finds his internship work very challenging, he also finds it significantly rewarding.

One feature of DeLeT that initially attracted Gilad was the fact that it was subsidized, and that fellows are also paid a stipend. He was in slight disbelief that it would be possible to change direction with his career without additional financial obligations. Now that he knows more about day school education, he loves it, and cares deeply about staying in the field. He is impressed with the academic and personal attention that the students get in Jewish day schools, and wants to be able to do his part to contribute to their experience.

The DeLeT fellows just completed an Educational Technology course, and this class really resonated with Gilad. He is excited at how technology can enhance the students’ educational experience—he and his mentors are often looking to find ways to employ technology to make their classroom more interactive. At the same time, they realize that technology is a tool, and are constantly assessing to make sure that the methods they use are an asset to the curriculum, and do not dominate the curriculum.

Gilad is completing his internship at Pressman Academy, a Los Angeles day school that has a long history of involvement with the DeLeT program. He feels very lucky to work at Pressman; it reminds him of Israel, from how much Hebrew is spoken to how close relationships are formed. Approximately 13 faculty members are either alumni of the DeLeT program or have mentored a DeLeT fellow. Gilad says that he feels a strong sense of pride being a DeLeT fellow in this context, and that seeing his school’s dedication to DeLeT is proof that it works.

Gilad feels that DeLeT is most influencing his classroom management skills. He still is able to preserve his own charismatic personality with his students, but is now able to play to his strengths, and focus that charisma. He also notices that there is more cohesion between the lessons he writes, and he has learned a more formalized way to write lesson plans. His involvement in DeLeT has elevated him from someone who taught religious school on the weekends for supplemental income to someone who sees himself as a Jewish educator.

When Gilad looks to the future, he hopes he does not forget the passion that he had as he starts his teaching career. Right now, he is fervently committed to becoming a Jewish educator who uses Responsive Classroom (a classroom management philosophy), and who revisits his curricula yearly to prevent himself from becoming stale. He hopes he does not lose this enthusiasm for reflective practice, making sure he is constantly trying to make himself better. He feels that thanks to DeLeT, he has a clear vision of what education should be.

Meet the Mentor: Mira Lev

ImageMira Lev is a 2nd grade Hebrew/Judaic studies teacher at San Diego Jewish Academy in San Diego, CA.  

My name is Mira Lev and I have been molding children who are proud and knowledgeable about their heritage since 1982. Prior to coming to the USA I taught in Ulpan programs in Israel, teaching new immigrants Hebrew and Israeli customs.  I have been teaching in Jewish day schools for 31 years in Michigan, Arizona and California, including the last 11 years here at SDJA.

The DeLeT program is in its inaugural year at the San Diego Jewish Academy.  I feel honored to be selected as part of this program and to share both my passion for teaching and over 30 years of experience with someone just beginning her career in Jewish education. While I hope I have imparted knowledge to my fellow, I have derived a lot of knowledge from her as well.

Having someone in the classroom shadowing me has challenged my teaching strategies and has fine-tuned certain aspects of my approach.  In addition, the discussions that follow each class have further pushed me to evaluate how I deliver Judaic-based curriculum.  I am thrilled as a senior Jewish educator to help my fellow in her development as a Jewish educator and to help her create future classrooms that will enrich the lives of Jewish students our San Diego Jewish Community and the global Jewish Community as well.

Sharing and collaborating with other educators enriches me as a teacher, and hopefully has an impact on my fellow.  Sharing my education approach, professional practice, values, ideas, and teaching techniques with my fellow serves us both. I feel I am becoming a better teacher since I have the chance to see, think, and evaluate my lesson planning and teaching strategies with my fellow. Seeing the growth in the fellow and me throughout the year has been inspiring and motivating. Finally, I enjoy the opportunity to learn, collaborate, share, and connect with everyone in the DeLeT program.

Fellow Profile: Yael Tzalka

ImageYael Tzalka is a member of DeLeT Cohort 12 at HUC-JIR. She is completing her internship in a 2nd grade classroom at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles, CA.

Yael knew she wanted to become an educator. She had already been accepted to another teacher preparation program, but her mother, who teaches in a Jewish day school and works with many DeLeT alumni, convinced her to look into the program. As Yael perused the website, she thought it was too good to be true—she saw it as an opportunity to mix her Jewish roots with her passion for education, and was impressed with the amount of individualized attention each fellow receives. Because this program appeared to be so tailored to who Yael was, she decided to forego her other acceptance and pursue her teaching credential through DeLeT.

For Yael, having the opportunity to learn in a cohort has been an invaluable part of her DeLeT experience. She feels that the members of her cohort bring out the best in each other. On one hand, she notices the academic benefits—they study together, work as chevrutah partners, and collaborate for projects. On the other hand, cohort-based learning has also impacted her personal life; Cohort 12 has become like a family, encouraging each other, and confiding in each other at times. Yael is very grateful to have them as peers, colleagues, and friends.

Yael feels that the support structure that is built in to the DeLeT program is a defining characteristic that helps DeLeT shine in comparison to similar programs. Yael’s Clinical Educator has helped to facilitate her academic growth in the program, assisting her with coursework, questions about her internship work, and personal struggles: “She challenges me to be the best version of myself I can be.” Her mentors have also played an influential role in her experience, and have helped her learn about classroom community, as well as teaching techniques and routines. They have given her feedback on her teaching, and have helped her become a better teacher. 

Yael has continued to feel supported by the DeLeT administration, as well. She feels that their roles do not fit in an easily defined box. They come to the table with their vast experience in academia and day school leadership, and make themselves available as a resource for the fellows.

Another piece of the DeLeT puzzle that Yael has found to be beneficial is the DeLeT teaching faculty. The professors teach disciplinary pedagogy from the perspective of different subjects, and Yael finds herself constantly thinking about how she can transfer this information best to her students this year and in the years to follow. The professor’s role is not just give the fellows information, but to shape them as teachers. Yael feels that she is being pushed to succeed, not just to get an A.

Yael can see the good in others, and wants to inspire people to be reflective and to be open to new ideas. She also has a knack for seeing how different parts of an organization work in synchronicity to create a machine, and understands how each piece influences those around it. For these reasons, she is entertaining the idea of becoming a school administrator one day. For the foreseeable future, she wants focus on her classroom teaching, working to establish a secure experience base in teaching.

The DeLeT acronym stands for Day School Leadership Through Teaching. We are looking forward to being able to watch Yael as she perpetuates the “L” in DeLeT, and are excited to see what kind of leader she becomes in the realm of Jewish education.