En el mes de febrero recibimos la visita de Joan G. Vander Walde del LEGACY HERITAGE TEACHER INSTITUTE, organización que otorgó un apoyo económico y de mentoría a nuestra Maestra Tania Shwartz para realizar el Congreso Sionista en Tarbut. Les compartimos sus reflexiones.
It was a pleasure to visit your school on February 12-14. I gained an initial sense of the vitality, warmth and commitment not only of the school, but of the Mexico City Jewish community. Tania, you not only ensure that I observed the impact on students of the new way that your LHTI project teaches Zionism, but I also saw how well the project connects to the school’s “Why Tarbut” mission and vision. You ensured my full access to understanding the school and how the project is moving along, even when your mom’s crisis occurred and you needed to be in the hospital rather than in school.
I am so appreciative for the chance to get to know your school. Your expansive facility is a welcoming place that offers the school community the space and flexibility needed to house educational programs for pre-school through high school. Indoors and out, Hebrew culture is vitally conveyed and innovation is encouraged. The school concretizes interaction among formal education (academics) , experiential education (youth movements), co-curricular education (drama, physical education, music, arts, crafts,) innovation (maker space, collaboration space, project based learning), social justice and environmental activism. It does so by dedicating space, time and effort to all facets of the school program and community interactions, including fostering relationships with other Jewish organizations, housing two youth movement centers, a green house, a roof garden, an environmental trail into the forest developed in conjunction with the KKL, and a recently redesigned early childhood education center. It was a special treat to see the school’s renovated pre-school in which the Reggio Emilia educational approach is apparent in both general and Judaic studies. CHT’s administration, faculty and staff were extremely welcoming and were very helpful, answering questions and finding time to ensure that my visit was productive.
I was highly impressed during observations of groups of students engaged in the Shorashim class, Zionism class, the Jidon Tzionut, and the independent initiative class that is taking the lead on planning and implementing the Zionist Congress in May. Students are so open to reflection. They think critically and display willingness to take and support positions that vary from the majority of their peers. They are articulate and respectful when debating, interviewing guest speakers, and sharing ideas and progress to date with each other as they develop the Zionist Congress. Many of the high school students who spoke with me appear to have high fluency in Hebrew and English and were readily able to switch from Spanish to Hebrew or English, when we conversed.
On the following morning you met with your Jidon Tzionut class and then
we met at the Initiative class. The students have divided into different committees, including web site design and management, organizing events for the day(s) of the program, identifying, inviting and following up with potential speakers. Part of the class period was spent working within their committees and part was spent sharing with me what they are doing and why.
Students want to create a stronger connection between their peers in the Diaspora and Israel. They indicated that their peers like the TEDx approach so they want to bring that approach to Zionist subjects, as well as art and debates on many topics relevant to issues in Israel. Their purpose is to allow students and adult participants in the Congress to redefine their interpretations of Zionism and attain greater clarity on different issues that impact Zionism today. In this way they believe that they can help people make more personal connections to Zionism. One student strongly believes that in Mexico today, there is a concept that the only way to connect to Zionism and to help Israel is through monetary donations and the group wants to change that.
When we met together with Hani Weizman, CHT’s Head of School, she conveyed that your LHTI project aligns very well with the school’s “Why.” The school wants to develop engaged thinkers and establish an environment of entrepreneurship as an approach to educating the students. The school is going slowly, but moving forward in this direction and your project is one way of doing so. According to Hani, you are helping them turn their own visions into reality. The students are making the decisions and you are bringing them the tools they need to turn their visions of this project into realities. Hani sees that it is challenging for schools and teachers to give students more power in the learning process and to allow them to be at the center of the process. She further explained that since you serve as a tutor and “coach” (similar to the role of advisor in US schools) you have had professional development that is helping to change some status quo educational practices. Your project is giving other teachers in the school who tend to be early adapters a model to implement what they have been learning, and you have encouraged your colleagues teaching Zionism and Israel to get on board. (Actually once they saw the degree to which students engaged in learning this way, you report that they both became enthusiastic about using this teaching approach.)
Hani also shared that she is very pleased that her expectations of the LHTI program and project are being met. She noted that your project touches on 4 of the 5 major goals of the school.
Colegio Hebreo Tarbut is fortunate as a school to have the facilities, infrastructure of collegial relationships, educational vision and leadership to which you and your project contribute. חזק ואמץ as you re-enter school, adjust to changed daily life and ultimately bring this project to its culmination for the year. Kol haKavod on what you have already accomplished and wishing you much hatzlacha in finalizing and implementing CHT’s 21st Zionist Congress.
Joan G. Vander Walde MENTOR, LEGACY HERITAGE TEACHER INSTITUTE