By Alanna Berman
The San Diego Jewish Academy is known for academic excellence, both in their general subject and Hebrew curriculum, but this year, classrooms at the exclusive local institution got a boost from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s (HUC-JIR) DeLeT program. Dedicated to fostering teaching excellence in Jewish day schools in North America, DeLeT (Day School Leadership through Teaching) is a program of the HUC-JIR Rhea Hirsch School of Education at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles.
“DeLeT is a proven leadership program that has had great success in Los Angeles and the Bay Area,” SDJA Executive Director Chaim Heller, said. “Having seen the impact of DeLeT at my previous school [in San Francisco] for more than ten years, we welcomed the opportunity to bring the vision and expertise of Hebrew Union College into our school.”
A unique 13-month teacher education program, DeLeT aims to foster core knowledge, skills, and professional development needed for effective day school teaching by partnering student interns with day school teachers. Five teachers and two fellows at SDJA are involved in the program this year. Interns, including Lauren Mangel, will earn their teaching credential after graduating from the program and will be able to teach in any educational setting, although many chose to stay within the day school framework.
“The previous model of Jewish day schools was school and Hebrew school combined; but the Judaica and Hebrew classes were very separate [from the general education classes], so the goal of DeLeT is to integrate Judaism and Judaic education into the general curriculum,” she says.
Teachers and fellows for this year are working with 2nd-4th grade students at the Academy to increase levels of Jewish education across the academic spectrum. DeLeT participants are taxed with bringing new ideas to the table and integrating Jewish learning into all subjects. For example, one recent math lesson was based on genealogy in the Torah, and another asked students to examine the weekly Parsha in a lesson on writing and storytelling.
“Teachers who graduate from DeLeT are highly sought after,” Heller says, “as they understand the Jewish dimensions of Jewish day schools along with being well-prepared for their teaching assignments … there is a virtuous cycle of improved teaching and learning in the classroom.”
By integrating opportunities for Jewish learning into the general curriculum, students at SDJA benefit from the DeLeT program by learning how to lead a fully Jewish life. The goal in bringing DeLeT to SDJA is to help move the academy in that direction.
“As fellows, we are encouraged to always be learning and thinking, and therefore, inspiring others to do the same; so this is just the next step in the integration process; to bring in new ideas and to always be on the forefront of education,” Mangel says.
Heller echoes her view when he says that the greatest beneficiaries of the DeLeT program are the students themselves.
“DeLeT is a difference maker for the fellows and mentor teachers, but it is also a force for positive change in the life of a school,” he says. “I am thrilled that we are a DeLeT school.
For more information, visit sdja.com.