Educators from Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston took part in a four-day program intended to mentor new teachers and address low teacher retention rates in Jewish day schools.
Representatives from 15 Jewish day schools, including heads of schools, mentors, and new teachers, engaged in skill-building workshops at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus June 24-27.
The New Teacher Induction Program was funded by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation and sponsored by YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership, whose website talks of “alarmingly low teacher retention rates” and the need for “increased support for new teachers.”
“It’s critical to work with a whole school so that the head of school, lead teachers, and new teachers understand what supports are needed for new teachers to succeed,” said Dr. Scott J. Goldberg, director of the YU School Partnership. “We are proud to partner with schools on the sacred task of educating the next generation.”
The June workshop emphasized working with school leadership and faculty to create a “comprehensive system of support and mentoring within each institution.”
JKHA principal Rabbi Eliezer Rubin said the program was necessary “to help [teachers] understand and appreciate the nuances [and] the different and various approaches to pedagogy and presenting.”
Chana Krupka, a teacher at the school, said that JKHA has secured a two-year commitment to the YU program, which hosts meetings throughout the year in addition to the four-day learning session in June.
The idea of passing along “tricks of the trade” to ensure future success was a common thread that ran throughout the New Teacher Induction Program.
Speakers from Brandeis University and YU presented research-based methods that highlight multiple areas of achievement and help teachers to understand different goals, said Krupka, who took on a mentorship role.
“Teachers who are mentors benefit as much from this program as new teachers,” said Debbie Finkelstein, associate principal of the middle school at JKHA, a beneficiary agency of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
JKHA teacher Ariel Levenson, who also acted as a mentor, said, “Teachers are always in a position where in order to improve their practice, they need to look at themselves and others. In order to be an excellent mentor, you have to engage in reflective teaching practices yourself.”
Mentors shared their own experiences and discussed problem-solving. They also worked with the new teachers to create goals and detailed schedules of their meetings throughout the school year.
Said Finkelstein, “The program helps create an authentic learning community.”
“Kushner is a school that understands that teacher growth enables student growth,” said Levenson. “It’s an excellent message to show that teachers are still learning also.”
Participation in the program “sends a very strong and encouraging message to the entire faculty that we’re invested in their professional development,” said Rubin. “It also helps teachers feel secure and confident in this profession, help[ing] them remain committed both to the profession and the school.”