MOM'S NIGHT IN
ECC4 teacher Barbara Dworin hosted a “Moms’ Night In” for parents this week. We checked in with her about the impetus for the intimate gathering:
“Things we remember from childhood seem monumental as we’re living them, but over time, they just become a piece of who you are. I wanted to suggest to our parents that their children use this time to create ‘Remember When’ moments that will create wonderful memories as a result.
“We also shared laughter and tears, wondering what the future will look like for our rising kindergarteners,” she said. “It’s hard to move on after a school year comes to an end, but we shared some ideas - and I told the moms that I have seen my students becoming more resourceful, independent, and confident in our Zoom meetings, and that they are learning.”
As the conversation ended, Miss Barbara’s students came to their moms for snuggles, and older siblings appeared onscreen as well. “Even though we are miles apart,” she said, “in some ways, I have never felt closer to my families than I have this year.”
helping hebrew students shine
A pair of digital dolls recently came in handy when Morah Adina Levin, who teachers Kindergarten and First Grade Judaic Studies, was teaching the verb “lovesh” (to wear) to her kindergarten students.
“I recorded myself describing the garments each doll was wearing, and then the kids had to do the same,” she said. It was a way to build vocabulary at home, and she’s been offering a variation on the activity for every verb she’s taught since Hillel moved to remote learning. To learn the letter צ, which is the first letter in the Hebrew word for tzedakah, she taught the Jewish value of charity, and then asked kindergarten students to video themselves placing tzedakah in a tzedakah box, while first graders were asked to share with her a mitzvah they accomplished, whether dropping off groceries for someone or helping out at home.
“We have found creative solutions to work with the fact that the kids are far from us, but continuing to learn skills,” morah levin said.
As part of the K-2 Judaic Studies team, Morah Levin is ensuring that students continue to receive recorded and live instruction that reflects Hillel’s mission and values - in addition to Hebrew language, students engage weekly in Israel studies, tefillot, and Kabbalat Shabbat activities. Kindergarteners also use Ji Tap, an online learning platform to reinforce letter recognition through songs, puzzles, and stories for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
In first and second grade, Judaic Studies teachers deliver a “meser hayom,” a morning message that includes the calendar and weather, and an activity that asks students to speak in Hebrew on a daily basis. “It’s a non-negotiable that students hear our voices every day, so every day we record a slide and the students record it back to us,” Morah Amalia Poris, our K-8 Ivrit coordinator, and a second grade Judaic Studies teacher, said.
“So each day we hear each child speaking in Hebrew - sometimes in school we don’t get to everyone in a single day, so this has actually been a godsend! We hear and see the progress.”
In both first and second grade, teachers are also enriching the curriculum for those students who were receiving enrichment at school, or who are ready for it now.
The foundation has been laid for next year, whether in person or via remote learning, the teachers report. “Of course we miss socializing with the kids, although we FaceTime and Zoom with them, and everyone wants to go back to school, but we’ve made the most of a non-perfect world,” Morah Poris said.
An upside to the learning at home, she added, is that parents are more involved than ever in their child’s education - and she regards that as a good outcome. “Parents are more aware of their children’s abilities, and taking an active part, and the kids are benefiting from that. That’s one thing I hope will continue when we go back to school!”
Students in our 5-8 Learning Communities typically receive their schedules at the start of the school year. They move from class to class, with teachers nearby who know them so well that they can anticipate their needs often before the student does!
Since students have been home, they’ve had to adjust not only to a new schedule of classes delivered online, they’ve also had to create workspaces, and determine independently how and when to complete assignments in between classes. It’s not always easy, so support staff have mobilized to keep struggling students on track and able to perform. Learning specialists Dana Levy in fifth and sixth grades, Pam Smith in sixth and seventh grades, and Mallory Tyner (at right) in seventh and eighth grades, check in with students each morning, and check out with them at the end of each day. They also work with these students on project planning and time management.
Ms. Tyner, for example, runs her Learning Lab dedicated to Language Arts and to Math, where she checks on the status of assignments, works with students on reading comprehension, and gives feedback on written documents. She also acts as a liaison between teachers and students regarding accommodations. The goal is to “even the playing field so that every student can be successful,” she said. When students take the initiative to advocate for themselves, Ms. Tyner, a Hillel alumna (class of 2007) swells with pride.
Moreover, she is there for the social-emotional piece of learning. Tyner helps relieve undue pressure over mounting deadlines by educating students about time-management: How to strategize finishing current homework in between classes, and then “choosing one overdue assignment” to complete per evening because it’s realistically “too much” to accomplish more than that.
Sometimes, she mutes her phone as a student completes work, just to give that feeling of being present and supportive.
“We’d rather be helping students in person, of course,” she said. “But until that time, this is the next best thing. “We’re not going to let anyone fall through the cracks, whether at school or at home.”
tech award recipient "a mensch among peers"
Mazal Tov to sixth grader Joe Squarcia, the recipient of this year’s Jason P. Zaks z”l Innovation & Technology Award given annually to a student who shows leadership in the MakerSpace and who is a mensch among peers. The award was established by the Class of 1988 in memory of their classmate. Nearly 200 staff, students, relatives, and friends joined the Zoom award ceremony earlier this week.
Reflecting on the pandemic, Jason’s sister, Dr. Lisa Klein (class of 1990), said, “Jason would have enjoyed the part of quarantine that allowed him to get outside to enjoy nature, and he would have liked helping people with technology during this period. And he'd be thrilled to give this award to Joe."
Kol hakavod, Joe! Enjoy your new electronics kit!
hillel eighth grader wins selective internship
Eighth grader Samantha Caminker has been selected to participate in USC Shoah Foundation’s Institute for Visual History and Education Leadership Workshop presented by the William P. Lauder Internship Program. The program offers eighth through 12th graders the opportunity to develop the agency to speak up for what they believe is right.
The online program runs at the end of June. It helps young people to develop an understanding of the power of storytelling, define and recognize personal values, cultivate confidence and courage to be an upstander, deepen proficiency in digital literacy and improve communication skills.
Eighth grade Shoah teacher Leah Gawel was ecstatic for her student upon hearing the news. "I'm doing the happy dance in my kitchen," she said. "I'm jumping for joy!"
picture of the week!
Our ECC students enjoyed a virtual field trip to Goat Life Farm in Oxford this morning, where they met several goats and newly hatched chickens. They asked a lot of questions using Zoom's chat feature, and in some cases even tried to give the animals a "hug" through the computer screen. Adorable!