Jewish Schools Awards 2019: We’ve done our homework!
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Jewish Schools Awards 2019: We’ve done our homework!

Educators from across the country’s 120 Jewish schools are once more looking forward to the annual glitzy awards ceremony held at JW3 on Monday - honouring our top teachers!

Nominees: Deborah Harris, Ilana Hutchinson, Indi Padda, Karen Dorman, Nicole Craig, Sita Shah, Anna Joseph, Charlotte Fogel, Fiona Bellinger, Juliette Green, Rabbi Jonny Goodman, Suzanne Singer, Cath Davies, Denise Sloane, Jayne Waxman, Ada Mann, Laura Fox, Ruth Finkel, Dina Jacobson, Ivana Levy, Ben Wolfin, Ana Rodriguez-Somoza, Rabbi Andrew Davis, Sharon Wakefield
Nominees: Deborah Harris, Ilana Hutchinson, Indi Padda, Karen Dorman, Nicole Craig, Sita Shah, Anna Joseph, Charlotte Fogel, Fiona Bellinger, Juliette Green, Rabbi Jonny Goodman, Suzanne Singer, Cath Davies, Denise Sloane, Jayne Waxman, Ada Mann, Laura Fox, Ruth Finkel, Dina Jacobson, Ivana Levy, Ben Wolfin, Ana Rodriguez-Somoza, Rabbi Andrew Davis, Sharon Wakefield

Success stories emanating from classrooms in Jewish schools have skyrocketed in recent years beyond even the high standards set in past decades.

But while the focus is inevitably on the end result, the hard work gets done in the run-up. That process involves a plethora of the willing and able, working to give Jewish children the best possible start in life, but in the rush for grades, their effort can sometimes get forgotten.

That’s why the Jewish School Awards, run by Jewish News in conjunction with Partnerships for Jewish Schools (PaJeS), is so important.

Now in their its year, educators and those who help them across the country’s 120 Jewish schools are now once more looking forward to the annual glitzy London awards ceremony, to be held at JW3 on Monday.

Here, we reveal the finalists over eight categories, who stand to take home up to £5,000 for their schools.

Excellence in Teaching Literacy (Primary)

The world would be so much more dull were it not for literacy, so an early introduction is essential. At North West London, the “outstanding and dedicated” Karen Dorman has introduced competitions and a school newspaper for the children to produce and edit, while at Sinai, Juliette Green “manages to enthuse every child with her passion,” meaning they now “love to read”. At Etz Chaim, Ilana Hutchinson has introduced writing competitions and Book Week, with authors coming to speak to the children and peers noting a “whole school” effect. While at Rimon, Kate Manktelow has trained other staff and even turned her classroom into a literary café with tea and biscuits, where children read books to one another. Cute!

Excellence in Teaching Literacy (Secondary)

At JFS, “motivating” Anna Joseph “goes beyond the call of duty,” according to nominees, while at Yavneh, Jayne Waxman “gives positive feedback” and “sets extremely high standards” for students. At Immanuel, the “extraordinary” Ben Wolfin won’t stop championing the monthly school newsletter Chai Life, distributed to every student and teacher, in which he showcases creative writing, profiles teachers’ favourite books and links literacy-based puzzles and quizzes to the curriculum. Beyond that he organises competitions, encourages debating skills, uses comics to help reluctant readers, and even offers a lunchtime drop-in for any student preparing for exams who wants help with their essay writing skills. Can we clone him?

Apples all round! The happy line-up at the 2018 Jewish Schools Awards winners ceremony!

Outstanding Practice in Foundation Stage

Akiva’s Nicole Craig “really knows and nurtures every child” and colleagues say she reflects her “deeply Jewish values” in the Early Years setting, encouraging youngsters to be “local, national and global citizens” by introducing them to things like Mitzvah Day and Chinese New Year. King David’s Charlotte Fogel is “keen to impart her love of Judaism,” even dressing up as an air stewardess to take the children on “a flight” to Israel for Yom Ha’atzmaut, complete with passports, boarding passes and suitcases! At Mathilda Marks-Kennedy, “patient and calm” Suzanne Singer turned her classroom into the world of Disney’s ‘Frozen,’ immersing the children in educational activities linked to this imaginary world, while at Hasmonean, Sharon Wakefield teaches in “a multi-sensory and kinaesthetic way” helping those with hearing and speech issues feel part of the class. All-in-all, a very strong field!

Outstanding Arts Initiative in a Secondary School

JFS fields two of the three finalists in this category, the first being “exceptional” Fiona Bellinger, who has captured imaginations with her “open and inclusive” music department. Known for always creating “a buzz,” colleagues say her work has meant that “students have found the music room to be their home”. Across the corridor, Denise Sloane leads drama. Described as “a pillar of the JFS community”, she is famous for her “legendary” productions of “West End standard”. Hoping to steal the award from the school’s grasp is Sita Shah at JCoSS, who has “breathed new life” into the school’s art department. Peers say she “sees beyond the curriculum” and her “positive energy” has led to a year-on-year increase in the number of students taking art since she joined.

Israel Education (Primary)

The Jewish Schools Awards 2018
Photo Credit: Marc Morris

At Broughton, the “infectious” Cath Davies knows the school inside out after 25 years there. She coordinated the ‘Israel 70’ project and nominees said they had “seldom seen the pupils so engaged” as when they created the pop-up book for the exhibition. At Etz Chaim, Ilana Levy doesn’t just teach children about Israel but encourages them to “experience” Israel, including its history and culture. Meanwhile over at Sinai the “charismatic” Jewish Studies teacher Ada Mann “is adored by parents and teachers alike,” with colleagues saying she “mesmerises and captivates” pupils.

Israel Education (Secondary)

Yavneh’s deputy head Rabbi Andrew Davis organises the Year 9 Israel Trip and “works tirelessly to educate, influence and inspire a love” for the country. Nominees noted his energy and experience, adding that he was Yavneh’s “backbone”. At King David in Manchester, Rabbi Jonathan Goodman is “unlike most teachers in that he understands that teaching should not take place 100 percent in the classroom”. He is known outside the school walls too, running the inter-secondary ‘Beat the Clock’ Jewish general knowledge programme. The final finalist in this category is the “dynamic” Sara Levan of JCoSS. As Head of Jewish Life at the school, she seems to understand that students don’t see things through rose-tinted glasses and offers Sixth Formers the opportunity “to discuss what is going on in the Middle East and air their concerns”. Beloved by teachers and pupils, one colleague told us “everything she touches turns to gold”. But will she take home gold?

Facilitating Student Responsibility in a Secondary School

Yavneh’s Sixth Form coordinator Dina Jacobson is known as “the Sixth Form mum”. She pushes community volunteering in a big way, creating the Give Back programme, has older students mentoring their younger peers, encourages Mitzvah Day involvement and even gets students running the Jerusalem Marathon for Israel’s disability support organisation Shalva. At JFS, Indi Padda created the Visibility for Disability programme, offering a “safe space” for students, and coordinates special assemblies, visiting speakers, disability sports and work with external organisations, all of which “has given a voice to the most vulnerable students”. At Kantor King Solomon, Ana Rodriguez-Samosa “works tirelessly” to help students play a part in school and local leadership, encouraging the establishment of out-of-school clubs and facilitating student feedback direct to senior management. Colleagues say Ana’s work “prepares students to take an active role in the community”. Between them, the future looks bright indeed.

Chesed Initiatives at a Primary School

At North West London, the “selfless” Ruth Finkel runs the Chesed committee, but she doesn’t just encourage the giving of money and clothing – she also builds relationships between the students and nearby Muslim schools, together raising thousands of pounds for Jewish and non-Jewish charities. Colleagues say she was a “lev tov” (a good heart). Eden’s Laura Fox gets the parents involved, too, facilitating visits to care homes, collecting for refugees and organising an event for Hope Not Hate. One parent said the visits, where children work with the elderly to “bring history alive,” were “powerful and moving”. Finally, at Wohl Ilford, the “amazing” Deborah Harris leads on all events to raise tzedakah, getting children collecting for everything from Camp Simcha to food banks, arranging maths resources for Ghanaian children, and even flew in an Israeli band to play at a Jewish care home. With Chesed like this, it’s a brave panel to judge a winner.

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