Jewish Schools Awards 2018: Shaping a generation

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Jewish Schools Awards 2018: Shaping a generation

Twelve months on from the 2017 Jewish Schools Awards, three finalists tell Alex Davis how the recognition has helped their teaching

The Jewish Schools Awards celebrate the best in education
The Jewish Schools Awards celebrate the best in education

“It was a great privilege to know I can make a difference to students and teachers in Jewish schools across the UK,” reflects Sivan Simons, winner of last year’s Modern Hebrew Teacher Secondary School Award.

Hers is an ambitious project. The JFS teacher has been working with Ivrit teachers across the UK to develop a comprehensive range of resources for the new GCSE specification in Modern Hebrew. “I wanted to use the award to benefit Ivrit learners in Jewish schools nationwide,” she explains.

To that end, Simons recently contacted all secondary school Ivrit teachers to explain her proposal and has asked them to contribute resources.

Using her award money, she intends to hire a professional to proofread and edit the materials to transform the submissions into a cohesive set of resources for all Ivrit teachers to use.

The Jewish News-PaJeS Awards have been running for three years and already more than £124,000 has been given to schools through the annual scheme.

Rabbi David Meyer

Each winner receives £5,000 and each finalist £1,000, courtesy of the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust.

The awards, sponsored by The Emmes Foundation, seek to recognise excellence in teaching in both secular and Jewish studies.

For Joanna Black, winner of the Emerging Teacher In Their First Three Years of Teaching Award (Secondary School), her ambitions are sky high. “As well as buying new science equipment for our current and future students to use both in and outside of lessons, we are going to host a day where students will experience a planetarium,” she explains.

The project will run after British Science Week and seeks to engage students in a new and exciting way. “It was a great honour to be nominated, let alone to win the PaJeS award last year,” adds the JCoSS teacher.

“The award is a wonderful initiative, which not only allows schools and teachers to run projects that they may not have necessarily been able to do before, but also provides a platform for us to notice and to celebrate the brilliant work that so many teachers do around the country.”

JCoSS teacher Joanna Black

It is a sentiment shared by Isla Thomson, runner-up in the Emerging Teacher In Their First Three Years of Teaching Award (Secondary School). “It was such an honour to be nominated by staff and parents of Yavneh College as I had only been at Yavneh one term at the time of the nomination. It is something I am immensely proud of,” she says.

The music teacher wants to use her £1,000 prize money to purchase two iPads, alongside accessories and applications, for students to use in the classroom.

The devices make lessons more interactive for students who can record their own performances and play them back to the whole class instantly. The handheld technology also helps with composition and even enables students to create their own music videos.

“The initiative has brought many laughs to the lessons, especially when students have hit record and forgotten to turn the camera around,” adds Thomson. “It is also a way for students to feel more at home, as we are teaching a generation who are very comfortable with SMART technologies.”

Looking to the future, all three educators offer practical advice for aspiring teachers. “Stand out by having the confidence to try new teaching techniques and initiatives in lessons. If something doesn’t work, then simply ask the students for feedback on how to make your idea successful. In my experience, I’ve found some of the ideas that first failed ended up being the ones students enjoyed most in the long- term,” says Sivan.

JFS teacher SIvan Simons

Thomson agrees: “Never be afraid to ask for help. Also enjoy going to work every day, teach with the love and enthusiasm you have for your subject and make students your number one priority.” Black adds: “Continue to remember and to work for the reasons why you came into teaching,” adds Black.

Marni Levy, fundraising and communications manager at PaJeS, said: “These awards are a great opportunity to recognise teachers who often don’t get the credit they deserve. It gives them the opportunity to create a project they feel passionate about and now have the funding to be able to do so.”


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