Wand-Polak Awards 2020: Recognizing excellence in teaching


“For Jews, education is not just what we know. It’s who we are.” – Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l

“What we need more than anything else is not textbooks, but text-people. It is the personality of the teacher which is the text that the pupils read, the text that they will never forget.” – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

ORT’s most important assets – much more so than school buildings, textbooks or computers – are our teachers.

The organization recognizes the dedication, service and ingenuity of its teachers through the annual Beatrice Wand-Polak Award.

It was established by former ORT Latin America director Bernard Wand-Polak in memory of his wife Beatrice, who was a former president of the Chicago Region of Women’s American ORT (now part of ORT America). She travelled extensively on behalf of the organization from her base in Argentina and assisted her husband in building a network of excellent technical high schools throughout Latin America.

The award recognizes ORT teachers who have been instrumental in improving the network’s programs by creating educational materials, developing new teaching methods or improving educational technologies.

This year 12 teachers from Italy, South Africa, Spain, France, Israel, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Ukraine and Russia have been selected for the award for their excellence in teaching and efforts towards ‘Educating for Life’.

Award-winning teacher Orly Picker with students at CIM-ORT in Mexico City

Winners of the 2020 Beatrice Wand-Polak Award include:

Dany Maknouz Mathematics and Computer Science Teacher at Scuola Della Comunita Ebraica in Milan, Italy

Dany Maknouz specializes in digital educational technologies and has worked as a teacher trainer for the Italian Ministry of Education on topics related to utilizing new technologies in teaching. In addition to writing STEM articles for a blog and editing and publishing books, she has also collaborated with several Italian publishing houses on technological and media education and on new teaching methods and environments.

“Dany is an excellent and innovative teacher and team leader,” said Vladimir Dribinskiy, World ORT Chief Program Officer. “As the school’s representative to World ORT, she helped ORT reconnect with Milan and has been a positive connection between ORT and the school. Particularly during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Dany has been instrumental in providing feedback and assessment of Milan’s immediate needs and adjusting the school to the new realities created by the pandemic.”

Heidi Morgan – Director of Educational Technologies at the ORT-affiliated King David Linksfield Jewish High School in Johannesburg, South Africa

With over 20 years of educational experience, Heidi (pictured top right) is responsible for leading teachers across the 11 schools under the auspices of the South African Board of Jewish Education to create a new unified curriculum with an emphasis on computing, coding and robotics. When King David Linksfield was building a new extracurricular STEM program for its junior high students, Heidi developed a range of subjects that empowered students and exposed them to emerging technologies including game development, robotics, film study, escape rooms utilizing augmented reality, and even puppetry using 3D printing, animatronics and programming.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Heidi has been involved in the school’s taskforce to create project-based studies that students could engage with at home and was instrumental in creating a robust and user-friendly distance-learning experience for students.

Lorraine Srage, King David Linksfield High School principal, said: “Mrs Morgan’s contribution to education is demonstrated by her commitment to excellence. She never loses sight of what is most important – the teachers who shape the future of young adults and of course the students themselves.

“Her constant sharing of resources and ideas provides teachers with a space to share their experiences and enables them to work together. Before and during the Covid-19 lockdown she has always gone above and beyond to expose our students to as much diversity as possible and to keep our teachers abreast of the latest technological and pedagogical innovations. Mrs Morgan is a precious asset to the King David schools and greatly deserves this honor.”

World ORT congratulates this year’s Beatrice-Wand Polak Award winners, all of whom have made a difference to their schools, changed the lives of their students, and improved the standard of education in their societies.

Full awards list:

Dany Maknouz, ORT affiliated Scuola Della Comunita Ebraica; Milan, Italy

Florence Vocoret, Collège et Lycée ORT Robert Blum; Villiers-le-Bel, France

Heidi Morgan, ORT affiliated King David Linksfield High; Johannesburg, South Africa

Julio Zapata, ORT Colegio Estrella Toledano; Madrid, Spain

Mandy Gruzd, ORT affiliated King David Victory Park High; Johannesburg, South Africa

Marcelo Holodenko, Kfar Silver Youth Village School; Ashkelon, Israel

Orly Picker, CIM-ORT; Mexico City, Mexico

Pablo Waibschnaider, Escuela ORT Argentina; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ruben Rosenzweig, Universidad ORT Uruguay; Montevideo, Uruguay

Sandra Borenstein, Escuela ORT Argentina; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Syuzanna Khachatryan, ORT Educational Complex #141; Kiev, Ukraine

Tatiana Konstantinova, ORT Technology School (Gymnasium #1540); Moscow, Russia