ORT Tallinn staffer wins title Teacher of the Year


11November 2009 ORT Tallinn staffer wins title Teacher of the Year A staff member at World ORTs school in Estonia has been named Teacher of the Year in an international competition for Jewish Studies educators held in Moscow. Inna Kandel, who teaches music and Hebrew to primary students at the Tallinn Jewish School, won the title in a secret ballot of the panel of judges at the end of a gruelling four-day contest which attracted 23 participants 13 of them from ORT schools from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Estonia, USA, Latvia, Georgia and Israel. It was not easy to choose a winner, said the chairman of the judges panel, Dr Georgii Lerner. But Mrs Kandels enthusiasm, charm, ability to keep the attention of the audience and her skill in teaching an unfamiliar group of students is unique. Organised in cooperation with the Regional Centre for Modelling of Activity of Jewish School (RCM), the contest is a component of World ORTs continual professional development for teachers at Jewish schools and was held this year thanks to the support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group. Everyones a winner: opportunities for teachers to develop their skills ultimately benefit the students. The teachers were put through their paces at the ORT Jewish School 1311, headed by Grigory Lipman, where they could access the superb technical facilities they needed to complete the tasks assigned them. The participants each made a presentation of their pedagogical experience and led a class highlighting the use of computer technology. For the competition, the teachers were split into groups in order to devise a school project and they had to conduct a lecture. The judges paid attention to the teachers pedagogic expertise and teaching methods, and their ability to put their knowledge into practice, Dr Lerner said. We took into account the variety of activities used by each teacher and the interaction between them and the students. All the competitors were real professionals who are absolutely committed to their work. They could not only challenge the students but inspire them. They were all independent, bright, imaginative and spontaneous. In the group activity, one group which included Sofia Naida of the ORT Gesher High School in Samara, developed a project based on one which has been suggested to ORT students participating in the Masa Shorashim programme. Shorashim sees hundreds of ORT students congregate every year for a week-long study tour of Jewish heritage and culture. The project involved students researching the history and everyday life of shtetls the remains of which they would visit during their tour. This information would then be combined with photographs, personal impressions and other information gathered during the tour itself to make a 15-minute presentation as well as a three-minute film. Our project did not win but it attracted a tremendous amount of interest from other participants, Ms Naida said. I am grateful to [ORT Russias Educational Programmes Coordinator] Slava Leshchiner for his constructive criticism. Among the winners of the competition was Rabbi Aryeh Katzin, Dean of the Sinai Academy in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from Russia, Rabbi Katzins participation in the competition marked his first return visit in some 30 years. It was lovely to see a vibrant Jewish community; it was a dream come true to see Jewish children in Jewish schools there, he said. He was not only impressed by the high standard of the teachers he met but also by the professional environment including the top quality technological equipment. Rabbi Katzin agreed with Dr Lerner that the most beneficial aspect of the event was the opportunity it gave participants to exchange ideas and share experiences. I didnt come to compete, I came as a student to learn more about Jewish education in Russia and it taught me a tremendous amount to see people from across the country and to hear about their experiences and philosophies and students, Rabbi Katzin said. The other contest winners were Michael Livshits, a Hebrew teacher at the Levi Yitzchak Schneerson Ohr Avner School in Dnepropetrovsk, Valery Ponyrko of the Or Avner School in Novosibirsk, and Oleg Russu, of the ORT Ahva school in Kiev. Julia Buteeva, of the ORT Jewish School 1311, and Mira Vitman, of the ORT de Gunzburg School in St Petersburg, were named laureates. The adjudicating panel comprised Dr Lerner, Dr Lyudmila Levin, RCM Director Tatyana Feldblum, and Moscow Universitys Darya Kovaleva.