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Back to school! New and noteworthy in our Jewish day schools, 2012-13

by Cindy Mindell

Connecticut is home to nine Jewish day schools, all working to provide a high level of education in both secular and Judaic studies. As the new school year approaches, the Ledger checked in with the schools to see how they’re gearing up for their students. Six schools responded.


Kindergarteners at Bi-Cultural Day School enjoy the sunshine

Bi-Cultural Day School
2186 High Ridge Rd, Stamford
(203) 329-2186
Pre-K through 8
Jacqueline Herman, Principal

The use of technology in learning continues to expand at Bi-Cultural Day School with new initiatives, including the 6th-grade pilot iPad program. In one of the first-ever such programs of its kind, each student will be issued a specially-programmed iPad for use in the school’s wireless environment and at home. The idea is to expand students’ access to information in a way uniquely suited to their generation and the way children learn today. Equally important, teachers will be able to even better differentiate learning to accommodate varied student learning styles, interests, and needs. Teachers in both secular subjects and Jewish studies have received special training to maximize the learning potential the devices offer. Good “cyber-citizenship” is expected. Rules, policies, and consequences have been clearly communicated and agreed to by both parents and students.
Monitoring by school staff will be ongoing and intensive.
A year-long, school-wide program created jointly with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is designed to foster a supportive, caring environment at Bi-Cultural, in keeping with the Jewish values taught at the school every day. With original programming and a new approach to the student-teacher-parent-school partnership, it is hoped that the program will become a national model for enhancing decorum and respect for self, teachers, parents, and peers.
With the success last year of an online math class, an online Hebrew-language course will be offered after school for those interested in increasing their Hebrew-conversation skills. Parents are being surveyed to determine which Jewish-studies courses they might like to take online to further their knowledge or learn alongside their children.
An after-school kindergarten program focused on Hebrew-language learning will be offered three days a week.
After-school language classes include Chinese, first offered last year and available to returning students and newcomers; and new for this year, Yiddish and Spanish.


Carmel Academy students march in New York City’s Celebrate Israel Parade.

Carmel Academy
270 Lake Ave., Greenwich
(203) 863-9663
K through 8
Nora Anderson, Head of School

Carmel Academy, a CAIS-accredited (with distinction) K-8 school, serves Jewish students from all over Westchester and Fairfield counties.
Carmel will begin the new academic year welcoming its upper school students into a newly renovated building, which also houses a new multi-media center and art studio. The fall will also see the opening of a new, fully-equipped lower school science laboratory, as part of the school’s continued focus on S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Carmel Academy took great care in keeping the original character of the buildings on its historic Greenwich campus, while equipping them with the infrastructures to make them state-of-the-art facilities.
This year, the school will continue to enhance its S.T.E.M. education offerings by adding a robotics enrichment course to the curriculum. The class will teach students the basics of robotics design, hydraulics, controls systems, and artificial intelligence. The school also offers Middle School E2K, an innovative program to teach math and science to gifted students, as well as an engineering program that challenges students to solve a specific engineering problem that has a societal benefit.
This past June, Carmel Academy’s eighth grade engineering team won first place in a regional competition that challenged students to design and build a remotely operated machine. Carmel’s E2K team for gifted math and science students has competed and placed first in several international and national competitions.


Teacher and student in an Ezra Academy classroom.

Ezra Academy
75 Rimmon Rd., Woodbridge
(203) 389-5500
K through 8
Richard Gusenburg, Head of School

Ezra Academy is working on implementing a new multi-age organizational structure for its lower school, grades K-5. Several groups of teachers have been engaged in curriculum-writing over the past few weeks, where they are working on a two-year, spiral curriculum that will facilitate and enhance the multi-age group classes being planned. Ezra is also taking a close look at its educational objectives and goals at each grade level. Subject areas have been integrated for more powerful learning; in-depth units have been planned to allow students the opportunity to delve into various areas of study in a broad and meaningful way. Ezra is preparing to launch a new Hebrew-language curriculum in grades K-5 that will focus heavily on spoken language.
In preparation, the Hebrew teachers have attended a professional-development program and will attend one more before the start of the school year.
Ongoing parent- and family-education programs, along with other social and special events, are being planned for the school year. The first, scheduled for October and open to the community, is an author-led discussion on the book, “How to Talk So Kids Can Learn.”
A veteran science teacher will join the staff this year, after teaching for more than a decade at the middle-school level, and designing curricula for grades 1 through 9.
Ezra is also continuing to meet with the Jewish High School of Connecticut to explore the possibility of a merger between our two schools.


A science class at Hebrew High School of New England

Hebrew High School of
New England (HHNE)
300 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford
(860) 231-0317
Grades 9-12
Rabbi Daniel Loew, Head of School

This year HHNE welcomes Dr. Richard Nabel as new Head of General Studies. Before arriving at HHNE, Dr. Nabel served as principal of four public high schools, most recently in Brookfield, where he served for seven years. He has both a doctorate in education and a law degree and has served as an adjunct professor of education on the university level. In 1991, he was the winner of the very prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award and has published and presented on numerous topics in the field.
For this year, HHNE has revised its schedule so that the school day will be ending significantly earlier. This will allow for a better sports and activities schedule and will be helpful for commuting students.
HHNE is also expanding its elective offerings. Joining its established Studio Art and Drama programs will be elective courses in Arabic, Business & Economics, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, and Psychology.


Early childhood education at the Hebrew Academy

Bess and Paul Sigel
Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford
53 Gabb Rd., Bloomfield
(860) 243-8333
Preschool – 8
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss, Principal

During  the school year, the Hebrew Academy is involved in many events in the local Jewish community:
• Dor L Dor: a multi-generational, Saturday-night Torah learning program open to the community.
• Reading Buddies: Hebrew Academy students visit with local elementary schools to read with younger students.
• Seders: Students from the Hebrew Academy participate in inter-generational Passover seders with residents of Federation Homes in Bloomfield and Hoffman SummerWood Community in West Hartford.

Programs at the Hebrew Academy include:
• “Mommy and Me:” Parents and grandparents bring their children, ages 3 and younger, to enjoy age-appropriate activities including interactive crafts, fine motor-building manipulatives. and pretend play.
• Mishmar: A weekly Torah-learning program for students in 6th grade and older.
• The Israel Trip: A two-week study tour of Israel for the eighth grade class.
• Performing Arts: The Academy’s middle school produces two full-length musicals and one drama production, all open to the community.

Preschoolers at Solomon Schechter Day School make a new friend.


Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford
26 Buena Vista Rd., West Hartford
(860) 561-0700
Pre K – 8
Rabbi Elliot Goldberg, Head of School

SSDS teacher Ziva Kovner was awarded the 2012 Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, given by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, in partnership with Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Commission on Jewish Education & Leadership (CJEL) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.
A first and second grade Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher, Kovner was nominated for the quality of instruction in her classroom and her work on the evaluation and renewal of Solomon Schechter’s Hebrew-language curriculum, her coordination of the second grade volunteer program at Hebrew Home and Hospital in West Hartford, and her unique ability to integrate yoga into her classroom.  Kovner began her teaching career in 1984 in Israel. Before joining SSDS in 2004, she taught at schools, synagogues, and community centers in Vancouver, Minneapolis, and Oxford, England. She holds a teacher’s certificate from Shain Teachers College in Petach Tikva, Israel and is a certified yoga instructor for children.
The school was also awarded a $55,000 Capacity-Building Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford. The grant underwrites a Schechter initiative to transform its early childhood program, inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Created after World War II in the small Italian city of Reggio Emilia, the model focuses on fostering relationships among children, teachers, parents, and community. It builds on the premise that each child has the desire to connect with others, to engage in learning, and to enter into a relationship with his or her environment. An integral part of the approach is hands- and minds-on exploration of materials and media involving authentic project work that includes in-depth investigation and representation of learning.
The approach is rooted in Jewish values and follows the Connecticut Preschool Curriculum Framework.
Schechter has engaged Patricia Reinhardt, independent education consultant and adjunct professor of early childhood education at Naugatuck Valley Community College (known for its Reggio Emilia-inspired lab school), to work with the early childhood faculty on the project.

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