Bi-Cultural Faculty Take Summer to Recharge and Reinvent

Posted on: July 25th, 2016 by admin
Bi-Cultural early childhood teacher Sharyn Baer explores a light display at an educator outreach workshop at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford. (Photo by Barbara Friedlander)

Bi-Cultural early childhood teacher Sharyn Baer explores a light display at an educator outreach workshop at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford. (Photo by Barbara Friedlander)

While many teachers slowed down over the summer break, Bi-Cultural Day School’s faculty accelerated gears, attending seminars, workshops and summer courses, expanding their skill sets to ensure that they are well-equipped for the new school year with the most innovative tools in their teaching tool belts.

“Our teachers are dedicated to continually enhancing the classroom experience and bringing out the best in every child. It’s important that we provide our faculty with the most progressive professional development opportunities to stay current for the 21st century classroom,” said Rachel Haron, Associate Principal, General Studies.

One of the major summer initiatives has been the Judaic Studies department’s collaboration with Ayeka, an Israeli-based education center, supplementing the Jewish studies curriculum with more ways for students to explore personal meaning and relevance. Bi-Cultural is one of a few schools in the country granted this program, and the only middle school to partner with Ayeka, which has been supported by outside funding. Associate Principal of Judaic Studies, Michal Smart, gathered Bi-Cultural’s Jewish Studies and General Studies faculty on this new project, training educators to provide opportunities through lessons and discussions that will help students gain Jewish knowledge in significant and thoughtful ways.

“We spent the summer working directly with Ayeka educators, holding team meetings, lessons and curriculum planning, and sharing this contemporary approach with the entire Judaic Studies team. We will eventually be integrating it on a school-wide basis,” said Smart.

Building upon their success with Ayeka, Smart and several teachers teamed with the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, an educational organization based in Jerusalem, which helps educators create meaningful ways for students to discover classic texts and traditions of Judaism and explore relevance to today’s most pressing issues. This year, Pardes is leading an initiative, funded by the Avichai Foundation, to make Tefilla more accessible to students. Pardes selected Bi-Cultural as one of three New York-metropolitan area schools to partner in this intensive two-year project, featuring Tefilla-specific seminars and workshops, and eventually rolling out an enhanced school-wide Tefilla program.

This enthusiasm for continuous learning occurred in other academic areas, including art, drama, and creative writing. Middle school English teacher Gretchen Mathews attended the Connecticut Writing Project Fellow program at Fairfield University’s Summer Institute. Helena Raffel taught courses in Bibliodrama, bringing biblical characters to life through dramatizations at Brandeis University’s Summer Institute. Art teacher Pat Wetzler will be offering additional ceramic projects following the completion of an intensive sculpture and clay workshop.

Literacy specialization was also a focus this summer, as reading specialist Barbara Sterling attended multi-sensory reading instruction at the Windward Training Institute and lower school teacher Beth Fritz mastered new teaching methods through the annual International Literacy Association Conference.

Teachers also concentrated on science and technology; Fritz and middle school teacher Adrianne Robinson took a course at Harvard University’s Design Theory and Innovation program, devoted to innovation in Makerspace Engineering Labs. “It was a great summer for learning,” said Robinson. “With the knowledge we gained, we were able to return to school excited and energized.”