Bi-Cultural Day School News

Bi-Cultural Welcomes New Kindergarten Teacher

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by admin

Stephanie Greenberg has recently joined the Bi-Cultural Day School Early Childhood Program as a Kindergarten Teacher, joining Sharon Chimes in the Kindergarten Team. Greenberg holds a Certification in Early Children Education and has earned a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Hunter College and a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Boston University.

Prior to teaching at Bi-Cultural, Greenberg was the First Grade Head Teacher and Co-Head Support Services Provider at the Lubavitch on the Palisades School in Tenafly, N.J. She also worked as an Assistant Kindergarten Teacher at the Manhattan Day School in New York and a Head Teacher at the 92Y Connect Jewish Afterschool Program in New York. In addition, Greenberg has written individualized curriculum plans for general and secular studies at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach in Hewlett, N.Y. While studying education at Boston University, Greenberg completed her student-teaching experience working in various schools in Massachusetts and has also worked as a Head Counselor at the Camp Gan Israel in Tenafly.

Greenberg lives in Riverdale, N.Y., and enjoys music and reading.

Stephanie Greenberg

Stephanie Greenberg

Bi-Cultural Parents Go Back to School

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by admin
Bi-Cultural parent Melissa Steinberg creates a Jackson Pollock-inspired drip painting during the Early Childhood Back to School Night. (Photo by Alice Andersen)

Bi-Cultural parent Melissa Steinberg creates a Jackson Pollock-inspired drip painting during the Early Childhood Back to School Night. (Photo by Alice Andersen)

Back to school night usually involves parents listening and learning about their child’s daily schedule and activities. On Wednesday, September 14th, Bi-Cultural Day School took this one step further as parents in the Early Childhood program listened and learned – and created, crafted and played during its annual back to school event.

Parents in the Pre-K and Kindergarten program donned art smocks, held paintbrushes and meditated on the story time carpet practicing calming, mindfulness breathing exercises as they got the chance to experience first-hand the different activities that their own children do on a daily basis.

“For our back-to-school night, we really wanted to design a unique experience than the traditional model of sitting in a classroom and just listening to the teacher speak – we wanted to transform our parents into the children themselves for a short time and help visualize themselves in the classroom as active, creative learners,” said Rachel Bahar, Associate Principal, Early Childhood.

Combining literacy with science, parents of Kindergarten students gained insight about their children’s upcoming literacy lessons as they made a substance well-known among teachers and students called oobleck, which gets its name from the well-known Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Parents combined the green substance with cinnamon, made applesauce and used leaf graphs to sort objects by shape and color as they learned about math lessons connected to the season of Autumn. “These activities were a lot of fun for the parents; they played literacy games and learned about important math kindergarten concepts in a fun and interactive way,” said Kindergarten Teacher Sharon Chimes.

Pre-K Head Teacher Alice Andersen with the help of Assistant Teacher Ely Sahar created an art project specific to Pre-K parents discussing the style of the influential American painter, Jackson Pollock, familiar for his abstract method and unique style of splatter painting. Parents sat at the classroom art tables and created their own sample art works in the style of Pollock as Andersen explained the importance of using primary colors as children discover how certain colors are combined to create other colors. Andersen also led a short mindfulness and meditation session, helping parents practice breathing and relaxation techniques, the same methods that she uses in class with her students.

Parents were receptive and enjoyed the revised back-to-school format. “I am really impressed with how Mrs. Andersen can get my four-year-old to sit and be mindful for a few minutes each day. There is a huge amount of current research indicating how mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, calm down and make more effective decisions when they become upset — and it was interesting to be able to try it myself,” said Dr. Alex Rafailov, a parent of a child in the Pre-K program. “The evening was really creative and a lot of fun for the parents.”

Bi-Cultural Celebrates Literary Birthday with Special Visit

Posted on: September 20th, 2016 by admin
Pre-K students Aharon Rafailov and Bina Siscovick show the character of Curious George a Curious George book from their classroom library. (Photo by Dora Salm)

Pre-K students Aharon Rafailov and Bina Siscovick show the character of Curious George a Curious George book from their classroom library. (Photo by Dora Salm)

On Friday, September 16th, Bi-Cultural Day School’s Pre-K class received a special visit from the world-famous literary character, Curious George in celebration of the character’s 75th birthday. In a unique author study tied in with the character’s anniversary, Pre-K Head Teacher Alice Andersen used the book series to teach vocabulary using writing and art activities centered on the concept of curiosity. (Curious George creators Hans and Margret Rey, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would eventually become Curious George as the Nazis prepared to invade Europe.)

Bi-Cultural Hosts Open House in November

Posted on: August 31st, 2016 by admin

2nd_day_red_carpet 026aOn Sunday, November 6th from 10:30 a.m. to Noon, Bi-Cultural Day School will host its open house for prospective parents and students entering pre-kindergarten and kindergarten for the 2017-18 school year. Children are encouraged to bring their parents for a fun-filled morning that will immerse them into the holistic principles of Bi-Cultural’s Early Childhood model, Play with a purpose. A child-centered approach, Bi-Cultural seamlessly integrates multiple academic, social and emotional skill development and acquisition through an interdisciplinary format, weaving a wide spectrum of subject matter into everyday playtime and hands-on activities. From progressive art, music and dramatic play to innovative scientific, literary and math enrichment, each child is afforded the time and space to explore their own interests.

“We are truly devoted to bringing out the best in every child,” said Denise Rafailov, Bi-Cultural’s Director of Admissions. “Our masterful teachers and exceptional Secular, Judaic, and Hebrew Studies curriculums enable students to learn in a playful yet meaningful way. Words can’t describe how incomparable our Play with a purpose program is. Only a visit can adequately illustrate the precious early childhood experience we provide, and this year‘s program has been re-imagined to be like none other.”

For more information on the upcoming open house or to schedule a tour, please contact Denise Rafailov at (203) 329-2186, extension 1310 or drafailov@bcds.org.

Bi-Cultural Begins School Year with Excitement and Energy

Posted on: August 29th, 2016 by admin
1st_day_red_carpet 030

Jewish studies teacher Yospa Lieberman sits with third-grader Joshua Zev during the morning Tefillah prayers on the first day of school. (Photo by Dora Salm)

Bi-Cultural started the 2016-2017 school year with both tradition and excitement as faculty and administration welcomed new and returning students back to school.

First-grader Elle Riker along with her parents Melanie and David are greeted by each member of the 42-student 8th grade class in the long-standing Bi-Cultural tradition of walking the red carpet on the first day of school. (Photo by Dora Salm)

First-grader Elle Riker along with her parents Melanie and David are greeted by each member of the 42-student 8th grade class in the long-standing Bi-Cultural tradition of walking the red carpet on the first day of school. (Photo by Dora Salm)

Students in grades 1st through 8th began the year on Monday, August 29th, and Pre-K and Kindergarten students started school on Tuesday, August 30th. By the end of the week, the BCDS building was buzzing with learning and activity as students and faculty settled in their classes and daily schedules.

Bi-Cultural Welcomes New Israeli Emissaries

Posted on: August 26th, 2016 by admin
Racheli Weinberger, Hila Weinberg and Hadar Cohen are Israeli emissaries who will be working with Bi-Cultural and the Stamford community for the current academic year. (Photo by Dora Salm)

Racheli Weinberger, Hila Weinberg and Hadar Cohen are Israeli emissaries who will be working with Bi-Cultural and the Stamford community for the current academic year. (Photo by Dora Salm)

Back to school is an exciting time of year for parents, teachers and students. At Bi-Cultural Day School, back to school takes on an additional dimension as the school welcomes the newly-placed banot sherut (translated as girls who serve). Known throughout the school as “bat ami” or “banot,” these young Israeli women serve in the school as cultural and educational emissaries for a one-year period. Though they are far from their own homes, these young ambassadors quickly become enmeshed in the daily rhythms of Bi-Cultural, leaving an indelible mark on the school and community.

Bi-Cultural typically arranges for two young women to serve in this role each year, however, this year the school is welcoming three women as Israeli emissaries. All three have already served one year of national service in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and have opted to complete their second year of service volunteering in a school. Part teacher, mentor, colleague and “big sister,” the bat ami help with every aspect of school life; tutoring students in Hebrew language, chaperoning field trips, hosting class Shabbat meals, teaching Israeli culture and planning and organizing much of the school’s holiday curriculum planning. In addition, the bat ami accompany the 8th graders on their annual, month-long Israel Experience trip, sharing their ruach (spirit) and love of Israel along the way.

This year, Bi-Cultural welcomes Hadar Cohen, Hila Weinberg and Racheli Weinberger.

Cohen, 18, is from Giv’at Shmuel, a city in the Center District of Israel. Cohen, who has an older brother serving as a commander in the IDF and two younger sisters, has worked as a tutor for elementary-aged children. She is excited to help educate the Stamford about modern life in Israel.

Like Cohen, Hila Weinberg, 19, is also from the city of Giv’at Shmuel. She has tutored high schoolers and enjoys art, painting and other creative expressions. The youngest of three, Weinberg, decided that she wanted to travel to the United States for this year-long program because she wanted to meet other members of the Jewish population outside of Israel. “It’s important to meet other Jewish people and to get to know them, to connect with them and educate them about Israeli life. We want people to know and understand Israel and maintain that connection long after we leave.”

Racheli Weinberger, 19 and the oldest of four, is from Jerusalem and met her two other counterparts last year at a youth group meeting. She has also worked as a tutor with elementary-aged children and is “looking forward to making friends with all the children in the school and meeting all the families in the community.” There is so much to learn and to get used it, but we can’t wait to teach people about life in Israel.”

Associate Principal Rabbi Yehuda Jeiger, who oversees the Israeli emissary program, stressed the importance of the banot presence in the overall school culture. “They have an unstoppable energy that permeates the whole school and makes the Jewish studies program that much more meaningful.”

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.”

Bi-Cultural Welcomes David Pitkoff as Board President

Posted on: July 24th, 2016 by admin

pitkoff2Bi-Cultural Day School recently elected David Pitkoff as the incoming President of the Board of Trustees, succeeding Robert Zitter, who served in this role for six years. Pitkoff, a partner in a CPA and financial-services firm, is a devoted community volunteer, having served on Bi-Cultural’s Board of Trustees for the past 12 years, chairing the Finance Committee, serving on the Executive Committee and on various search committees. Pitkoff has also served as president of the Mount Kisco Hebrew Congregation and directed numerous Israel-related charities. He and his wife Cindy, a Bi-Cultural teacher in the early education program, have three adult children, all Bi-Cultural graduates.

How did you first become acquainted with Bi-Cultural?

While we toured a number of schools, we couldn’t get over the joy in the classrooms and all the smiling faces of the children at Bi-Cultural. Our three children attended Bi-Cultural, then went onto SAR High School in Riverdale. Joshua is 23 and graduated from Princeton University, Danielle is 21 and a junior at Johns Hopkins University and our youngest son Andrew, 18, just finished a gap year in Israel and is a freshman at the University of Maryland.

What prompted you to become so involved with the school?

Judaism teaches a concept of Hakarat Hatov — to appreciate and express gratitude for everything we have been blessed with. When our youngest graduated, we were able to celebrate one of the wonderful Bi-Cultural traditions: parents are presented with a plant as the melody is played from the Mezinka, the traditional dance honoring parents when their last child weds. It felt like we were in the midst of a celebratory lifecycle event, surrounded by our community and loving family. So, when offered the opportunity, I wanted to help serve the school that has meant so much to our family.

What are your initial priorities and challenges as incoming President?

I am so fortunate to collaborate with our Principal and Head of School, Jackie Herman. She and her team of administrators and faculty continually inspire our school and children to strive for excellence and we remain a school bustling with engaging events and activities for children and families. Every year Bi-Cultural students shine in local and national competitions and faculty members are recognized for our progressive programs in both secular and Judaic studies.

Given the school’s strong leadership team, the Board’s focus will be on strategic and community issues. The greatest challenge facing all Jewish day schools is the need to provide affordable and accessible education, a goal Bi-Cultural is committed to. We believe that every Jewish child deserves the best possible secular and Judaic education. I also believe we have a responsibility to identify and promote the next generation of leadership that will ensure Bi-Cultural’s cntinued growth for another 60 years.

Finally, we must always create innovative ways to inspire and nurture a love of learning, a love of Torah and of Israel.

Bi-Cultural Wins Third Place in Celebrate Israel Day Parade

Posted on: July 13th, 2016 by admin
More than 200 marchers from Bi-Cultural danced and sang their support on Sunday, June 5th in the Celebrate Israel Day Parade in New York. Yehudit Hochman, Shira Haron proudly wave flags as Ezra Chamberlain marches along with them. (Photo by Michelle Gordon)

More than 200 marchers from Bi-Cultural danced and sang their support on Sunday, June 5th in the Celebrate Israel Day Parade in New York. Yehudit Hochman, Shira Haron proudly wave flags as Ezra Chamberlain marches along with them. (Photo by Michelle Gordon)

Dark, drizzly skies could not dampen Bi-Cultural Day School’s spirit on Sunday, June 5th, as more than 200 students, faculty and parents marched in unison up New York’s Fifth Avenue in the annual Celebrate Israel Day Parade. Bi-Cultural’s parade committee of parents, Anat Chavkin, Rachel Dayan, Meg Haron and Danielle Thau prepared for months beforehand, coordinating logistics, choreography, music and all other creative elements for this event. As a result, Bi-Cultural won third place out of nearly 120 organizations for overall pageantry and design, unique to this year’s theme, Sight, Sound and Spirit, making Bi-Cultural the only school placing in the top three spots every other year for the past six years.

Bi-Cultural Welcomes Denise Rafailov as Director of Admissions

Posted on: July 13th, 2016 by admin

denise_headshotBi-Cultural Day School welcomes Denise Rafailov as the incoming Director of Admissions, responsible for managing and directing the recruiting and admissions program for the school.

Rafailov holds a Masters in Education from the University of Bridgeport and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Spanish from the University of Manchester in England as well as a Diploma in Israel and Jewish Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

As an educator, Rafailov has direct classroom experience teaching in area schools, including Bi-Cultural, the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, and Temple Sholom of Greenwich. Prior to obtaining her Masters in Education degree, Rafailov worked in the corporate sector managing corporate communications and implementing large-scale public relations campaigns and events in the music industry for Warner Music Group and eMusic in New York.

An avid singer and musician, Rafailov, who is fluent in Spanish, enjoys creative writing and volunteering in the community. She has volunteered with JumpStart, JCC’s early education program for children with special needs, and has chaired the annual Sara Walker fundraising auction in 2015 and 2016, receiving the JCC Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015. Rafailov lives in Stamford with her husband and three children.