Category Archive for "Leadership Blog"

Parents in Charge

Dear Parents,

It is not news that parents are in charge of their children.  For the moments when our little negotiators cause us to question who is really in charge, we have the sage advice of Dr. Bruce Powell and Lori Getz, M.A. to guide us.

Using the acronym PAVES, Dr. Powell gave parents an easy-to-remember tool for raising ethical children, last Tuesday night.

P – Parental

A –  Actions

V – Values

E – Expectations

S – Supper

Parents in attendance at last Tuesday’s program appreciated Dr. Powell’s deep understanding of the challenges parents face in today’s world. He confirmed that parents can and should say, no, when it is warranted. He cautioned parents to be aware that children will mimic their actions and will absorb the values clearly displayed in the family. Children wish for and respond to parental expectations, so parents should take the time to think about the goals they assume for them and examine the priorities that are emphasized. Lastly, Dr. Powell sited research proving the benefits of family supper (without devices) in raising successful adults.

In October, Lori Getz reminded parents that the cyber world children join requires strict oversight.  “Letting your child be on the world wide web without supervision is like letting them walk out of the house to go anywhere they want by themselves,” she admonishes. We shouldn’t be misled by children’s apparent skill in navigating the internet by equating it with an understanding of its complexities and risks.

We, at ADAT, relish the opportunity to support parents in their challenging endeavors. By bringing distinguished speakers and being available to reassure and guide families, we get to be a part of the village that makes ethical, knowledgeable, strong grown-up people.



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Tu BiShevat: L’Dor V’Dor

Tu BiShevat: L’Dor V’Dor

One of my favorite things about Adat Ari El’s campus is all of the foliage. It is a singular joy as I walk my son, Ryan, in and out of the school. Ryan is a little over a year old and is only now a sturdy enough walker to step jovially from the parking lot and into the courtyard of ADAT. Along the way, he stops and points at all the roses, leaves, trees, and other plant life on our way to the ECC. After dropping him off on Monday mornings, I usually stop to take care of the plants in Tower Gardens (which have moved from the outdoor chapel to our lunch area).

Last week, this routine changed, when the Kindergarten class started to take over my responsibilities of these gardens. As part of a larger project, our Kinder “Garden” has started monitoring the growth of the herbs and lettuce that are growing. As they grow, our students will harvest them and will prepare salads and other treats for the rest of our community. The Kindergarteners are also revitalizing our Biblical Garden (the garden behind the DFC) with their Sixth Grade buddies. Similarly, Morah Mali is planting parsley with her First and Second Grade classes and the students are monitoring its growth. The First and Second Graders hope that their parsley will be ready to be dipped in salt water by Passover.

I cannot wait to see the impact these projects will have on our students. It is a miraculous experience to take care of a living thing, watch it grow, and have it – in turn – take care of you through the nourishment it can provide. The symbiotic relationship that humans can have with plants is a powerful one. This is why Tu BiShevat is a very special holiday to me. It is a reminder to be grateful to the trees for all that they offer us and a reminder of the responsibility we have to take care of them.

At the Rabbi’s minyan on Wednesday, Rabbi Bernhard read a story to our students that teaches the importance of taking care of the Earth for the next generation. This idea is most tangible to me when I walk my son to school. I watch him enjoy the splendor of the nature that I often miss because it hits him just at his eye-level. He stops and points, and I get to see the leaves or the flowers that I usually rush by, as if for the first time. When this happens, I am full of gratitude for the beauty that surrounds us here at ADAT and in the world. I am also aware of the awesome responsibility to protect our Earth for the next generation.

I wish you a wonderful and reflective Tu BiShevat. L’dor V’dor and Shabbat Shalom.


Lauren Quient

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The Intersection of Design Thinking and Jewish Education

Dear Adat Ari El Day School Parents,

Over the course of this school year, the K12 Lab Network has been hard at work training and coaching the teachers at Adat Ari El Day School in an innovative methodology called design thinking. Since that work has taken place largely behind the scenes in trainings, phone calls, and video hangouts, it’s a special pleasure to have the opportunity to write to you, the ADAT community, and brag about the great work your teachers are doing to make your child’s school more student-centered and innovative.

If you’re curious about design thinking, there are a number of great resources available online, including the Stanford website where you can also read about the work we do in the K12 Lab Network. Design thinking is a human-centered creative process used to solve problems and overcome challenges, and leans heavily on collaboration, navigating through ambiguity, and biasing towards action. Design thinking asks you to take an empathetic approach to problem solving, which means you look to understand how problems manifest in people’s lives, and combine that with a bias towards building solutions that can help improve those problems. In that way, design thinking integrates nicely with Jewish ethics, especially the attitude put forward by Tikkun Olam.

At ADAT, teachers have been exploring this intersection with Jewish education by invigorating stories we’ve been telling for eons with a creative mindset, like having students imagine how Noah’s Ark would be redesigned. 2018 has been especially energized: teachers have paired up and developed incredible lessons and projects that blend content knowledge with design thinking and maker activities in the ZDL. We’ve been continually inspired and impressed by the vigor with which your Day School’s educators across grade levels and content areas have collaborated in order to get creative projects up and running.

For the rest of the school year, each grade is exploring a different design challenge. In TK, they are building a house with blocks. Each room in the house will solve specific needs. Kindergarten is redesigning the Biblical Garden behind the DFC with their 6th Grade buddies. First Grade is exploring the question, “how can something small change the world?” Second Grade is getting ready for the transportation unit. This unit focuses on redesigning the transportation experiences of their parents. Second grade will also explore the modes of transportation in the bible like chariots and camels. Third grade is deeply immersed in their project to beautify our campus, and fourth grade is gearing up for their design of a California mission later in the year. Fifth grade will begin a project about community and what it means to have a “home,” while sixth grade will design a new “ancient” civilization that would support their specific personalities. As Adat Ari El teachers prepare to launch and refine these projects, they are working closely with us to create experiences that will engage their students’ curiosity, enlist their unique problem solving skills, and empower them to improve their world.

We will continue our work with ADAT over the next few months, and cannot wait to see the outcomes of these incredible projects. We think that the best is yet to come.


Ariel & Devon
K12 Lab Network @d.School


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Celebrating MLK, Jr.: The Ripple Effect

On Monday, Ms. Abronson asked her First Grade class, “can you change the world if you are only six years old?” After a brief discussion, she read a story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was a child. The young Dr. King was told that he could not play with a neighbor because of the color of his skin. When the class reacted to the story with shock and anger, Ms. Abronson explained how Dr. King grew up to fight for civil rights and that his efforts changed the world. As the class examines how sound travels with Mr. Abelson in Science, Ms. Abronson is working to help her students understand that small things, like sound waves, can ripple and get bigger. Dr. King is a tangible example of the design challenge that the First Graders are exploring: “How can something small change the world?”

In Fifth Grade, Mr. Wise discussed the history of segregation, the many people who influenced Dr. King (including Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi), and Dr. King’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement. The class examined Dr. King’s belief that there are three evils in the world: poverty, racism, and militarism. They learned that Dr. King is commemorated not only for his role as a leader in social justice, but also as an advocate for peaceful solutions. While the First Graders learned that Dr. King’s influence had a positive ripple effect, the Fifth Graders discussed the warning in Dr. King’s teachings: inaction can also ripple. As Dr. King said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

In Transitional Kindergarten, the students engaged in an empathy exercise that allowed them to experience segregation themselves. One day after recess, they encountered signs that indicated that people with long hair could only work in some of the areas in the classroom and people with short hair could only work in others. The students were sad and disappointed that they did not have the freedom to use the entire classroom or to work with their friends. After a short time, the whole class discussed their experience. Through this lesson, the TK students were able to relate to Dr. King and to understand how his fight for equal rights relates to them.

As we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday this Monday, it is an opportunity to reflect upon the incredible contributions of an American hero and also a moment to remember our own commitment to Tikkun Olam and social justice as a Jewish People. When discussing Dr. King’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, and to follow in his way.” When we ask our students if they believe in their own power to change the world, we are grateful to look to Dr. King as an example in teaching them to confidently respond, “Yes!”

Shabbat Shalom,


 Dr. King and Abraham Joshua Heschel marching for civil rights

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Happy 2018 and a Great Year Ahead

Dear Parents,

Welcome back to school and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a restful and restorative Winter Break with your families.

2018 is in full swing at ADAT! We have loved having our students back on campus and jumped right back into our busy routine of learning, collaborating, thinking, and creating. We have so much planned for 2018 – from our grade level parlor meetings in January, IGD and Purim in February, our Shabbaton in March, to our Annual Celebration in April, and so much more! We cannot wait to share the rest of this school year with you and to plan together for next year.

Please note that we have some important deadlines fast approaching in regards to the 2018-2019 school year!

  • Monday, January 8: Financial Aid forms due for returning families
  • Friday, February 9: Re-enrollment contracts distributed
  • Friday, March  2: Re-enrollment contracts due

Your adherence to these deadlines ensures that we can properly plan for a strong school in the coming year. Thank you in advance for complying with our timeline.

Cheers to a full 2018 filled with good health, meaningful experiences, and building community – together!



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Chanukah – A Dedication to Gratitude

Chag Simcha who la’am nes gadol haya sham…”  We could say that this Chanukah, a great miracle happened there – while our Shabbaton needed to be postponed, our Camp Ramah was not harmed.  Although this is true, it does not reflect the terrible damage so many areas around us have sustained.  

Chanukah means dedication. Let us dedicate our week of this holiday to gratitude:

  1. For the many first responders (firefighters and police) who work tirelessly to protect us and keep us safe.  They have worked for 1-2 weeks already and will continue for at least another week.

  2.  For our teachers and parents who keep us safe, calm us down, and reassure us when we worry.

  3. For the tremendous luck we had with the Camp Ramah calendar that March 2-4 is available for us to reschedule (families who had not already registered may do so until February 2)!

  4.  For the sufganiyot we enjoyed Tuesday at the end of school.

  5.  For our tradition that offers us so many opportunities to celebrate – as we did Wednesday evening (12/13) with all of our schools together on campus.

  6.  For the Chanukah singing we did in Hebrew and Judaics Thursday for the Chag.

  7.  For the PJ spirit day student council planned with a dreidel-spinning contest today.

  8. For the fun and relaxation we get to enjoy with our families during two weeks of winter break.

What else can we celebrate?  To what can we dedicate ourselves?  For what else can we show gratitude?

Wishing you a safe and wonderful winter break!

Chag Orim Sameach,


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Celebrating the Heroes/Heroines in Our Midst

Celebrating the Heroes/Heroines in Our Midst

I have always known that we have outstanding teachers and administrators. Our faculty go above and beyond for our students every single day. They go home thinking about how to better support the growth of your children; they talk to each other in the parking lot about the new ideas they have planned for the day. But when you see something day in and day out, it’s easy to take it for granted.

Every once-in-a-while, extraordinary circumstances arise that give me reason to pause, look around, and appreciate. This week provided us Angelenos with many extraordinary circumstances, and at every turn, I was humbled and heartened by the menches who come to Adat Ari El every day to shape our children.

When I drove home from a long Thursday of logistics organization, contingency planning, news watching, air quality monitoring, and checking in on those from whom I had not heard, I became overwhelmed with pride and affection for the faculty with whom I work. So, as I write to you today, it is because I realized that it would have been selfish to keep this to myself; our community deserves to hear about the little actions our teachers do to show their deep devotion to our school, to their craft, and to your children.

A teacher whose car was stolen from her driveway in the middle of the night Tuesday night FaceTimed into her parent-teacher conferences from the police station and then the rental car facility so she wouldn’t miss an opportunity to update parents on her students’ progress.

An administrator who put over a hundred hours into planning every detail of our Shabbaton came to terms with what it might mean to reschedule this core bonding opportunity for our community; our community continues to hold its breath as we look to Ojai with hopes of safety.

Three children of faculty members came to ADAT with their parents today because their own schools were closed, and their parents – your teachers – are dedicated to your children’s success.

A teacher whose husband is in Ojai fighting the fires and whose children’s schools were closed made other childcare arrangements, so she could be with her students this morning; not because she had to, but because she wanted to be there for her students.

A member of our support staff worked from home to cancel and reschedule appointments, made sure to keep our community updated, and thought ahead about all the details that go into making sure our school operates smoothly.

A teacher whose children’s daycare was threatening to close on Wednesday stayed for as many parent-teacher conferences as possible until he finally had no choice but to leave.

An administrator who lives on the other side of the Skirball fire spent all day Thursday on the phone ensuring that we had enough substitute teacher coverage, so that we could reopen our school today.

The few teachers who needed to stay home today made every single effort possible to be here, and are sorrowful that they need to stay home (though we reassured them that their classes would be well cared for).

Four faculty members with asthma are keeping their inhalers closeby.

A teacher who cared so deeply about our ability to reopen on Friday volunteered to supervise 40 children at once if needed (don’t worry, it wasn’t needed).

A teacher who, when she received the notice that we were closing Thursday, called in the morning to see if there was anyone she could help, any extra classes she could take on Friday, or anyone in the community who needed anything.

Not. One. Complaint. And these are only some of the stories.

We have a group of educators who arrive each day to teach your children, who believe wholeheartedly in what they do, who care deeply for your children, and who are committed to each other. I have seen many schools with lovely faculty cultures, but none like this. I can assure you that they teach your children how to be a caring community member because they lead by example. I am awed by them and am honored to work alongside them.

While we, at ADAT, have so much to be grateful for, those who are suffering throughout our city are not far from our thoughts. We pray for the safety of all members of our greater community affected by these tragic fires and for the men and women who are so valiantly risking their own lives to save those of others.

There are heroes and heroines in our midst every day. Some are right in our classrooms, and others are on the front lines saving lives. For each and every one of them, I thank you.

Shabbat Shalom,


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ADAT Participates in a Week of Code

Week of Code is an international event during which educators pledge to teach coding to their students for one hour during the week of December 2nd.

Coding is a skill that is in line with many of our values – problem solving, creativity, and turning ideas into something real. Moreover, coding prepares students for the future.

Students who graduate college and are fluent in a coding language earn 40% more than the average college graduate.  

There are currently 500,000 job openings in computer science and that number grows every year.

In the following interview with our technology teacher, Daniel Shiriwastaw, Daniel explains how Adat Ari El Day School will be participating in this exciting event!

What does “coding” mean and why is it important for students to know how to code?

“Coding” is the language a person can use to tell a computer what to do and when to do it. This is important for students to know because it builds problem solving skills, critical and logical thinking skills, and it is becoming increasingly important in today’s society. I would even go as far as to say that coding literacy is its own class of what it may mean to be literate in the near future.

What does the coding education look like at Adat Ari El Day School?

At Adat, we use MIT’s coding programs Scratch and Scratch Jr., as well as Kodable and Sketch Nation. Scratch and Scratch Jr. use block coding. Block coding is a scaffolded type of coding in which students drag and drop puzzle pieces that provide instructions for the computer. In these programs, our students customize their own animation or interactive videos by telling the computer how they want the characters within the program to move. Block coding lays the groundwork for students to understand how to communicate with and direct machines. We also use Ozobots and the Lightbot App with our younger grades in order to build foundational skills and concepts that will prepare them to use more advanced programs.

Why is it important for Adat Ari El to participate in “Week of Code” if there is already an ongoing coding program on campus?

Coding is a new and emerging means of communication. As such, it is important for our students to know that other schools and organizations value coding and for them to connect coding to something larger than our school community.

What will “Week of Code” look like at ADAT?

Each class will have a different coding experience during their designated technology class time. I will introduce this experience with an explanation of “Week of Code,” I will share the image above and this video with the students before we begin. This way, they will understand their place on the international stage of coding.

How does coding relate to ADAT’s mission statement:

Coding allows students to “know themselves” by providing a new language in which to express themselves and helps them to communicate their thoughts in a new way. It allows students to “serve others” by facilitating their ability to invent or create new solutions to problems. Coding also empowers our students to “act to improve the world” by not only using new technologies and innovations but by creating them.

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Filled with Gratitude for You

Dear Parents,

It has been an amazing week at ADAT! Last week, our 6th Graders had an incredibly immersive experience at Pali Camp, and returned home taller (maybe), with great memories, and having grown from being fully engaged in ropes courses, squid dissections, archery, and bonding – together! A few days after that, I received a beautiful e-mail from Amy George (3rd grade teacher) to her students’ parents. In reference to the time of year and taking stock of her blessings, she writes:

“So far this year has exceeded expectations in every regard, and mine were very high. The class is not just a class; we are a family … They are eager learners, avid participants, good helpers, and friends. They are a tightly knit group, and we have all bonded together in a way that is deep, real and heartwarming to see. Due to the gift of our smaller numbers, we are able to move through the material at a quicker pace, while making sure the kids understand what they are learning … We are ahead of where we should be for this time in the school year. I know the kids are challenged … I also know they like coming here; many are the days when I have to remind them they have to leave school–over a chorus protesting, ‘We want to stay.’  For me, that is a first…”

This is just a glimpse (in just a couple of days) of what happens every single day at Adat Ari El Day School. To say that these examples make me burst with pride is a complete understatement. But, what it does remind me – time and again – is how grateful I am to experience these and other moments, both big and small, every day.

I am so thankful to be in a position to witness, much less have a hand in shaping the kind of school where students are learning in hands-on, meaningful, and deep ways, alongside peers who support, challenge, and show love and compassion for each other. I am honored, humbled, and appreciative to work alongside an administrative team that helps me tremendously, while doing distinct and significant jobs that make this school run so smoothly. Then, there’s our teachers from whom I learn and for whom I am thankful. From the teacher who has been here just a few months, to the ones who have been here for decades, and everyone in between, we have much to gain from them as teachers and as people.

To you, our parents, I am thankful to you for entrusting me and our team with your most precious gifts. I am grateful that you have chosen ADAT as your day school, as your community, and as your home away from home. Most of all, thank you for creating these beautiful children who make me laugh, help me focus on what matters, teach me to look at various issues through their uniquely innocent and innovative lenses, and allow me to do what I love everyday!

This Thanksgiving, I have so much for which to be thankful – and so much of it comes from you and this wonderfully vibrant community. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving and a weekend full of gratitude and blessing.



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Hanging Up My Shoes

Dear Parents and ADAT Community,

It is with mixed emotions that I share with you my decision to hang up my shoes and retire from teaching at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

We’ve come a long way since I started teaching at ADAT in 1981: from a couple of classrooms by the gift shop to a state-of-the-art school building, from teaching PE on a boiling asphalt parking lot to the amazing Sybil and Manny Kaplan Sports Pavilion (which keeps our students 20 degrees cooler on hot days!). We’ve added the one-of-a-kind Zebrack Design Lab, a soccer field, and many other great innovations.

For me, ADAT Ari El is like a home away from home. It is not just a workplace but a lifestyle, spiritual shelter, and moral compass. ADAT has been with me at my happiest times as well as my hardest, like a safety net ready to rescue me and other community members whenever the need arose. It is that, and much more, that makes ADAT a unique place to belong to and to work for.

My gratitude and thanks goes to the Heads of School that took ADAT to higher and higher grounds over the years. I especially want to thank Lana Marcus, who carried the weight for 28 years, and Shara, who jumped in, grabbed the reins, and immediately steered us in the right direction. I am confident that between Shara, and our new Temple Executive Director, Eric, and our amazing staff, the best is yet to come.

Our Heads of School gave me the room and space to design a program suitable to our school. They supported and encouraged me to stay creative, bring the latest and best in health and physical education to our students, and backed me up when I needed support.

My utmost admiration and respect goes to you, the parents, for your commitment to providing your children the ADAT education, and most importantly for trusting me and my colleagues by putting in our hands your most precious possessions: your children. One of the keys to a successful school is supportive parents.

I wanted to let the school know about my decision as early as possible, so that we have the time to find the right replacement to head the Physical Education program.

I am not sure how my separation from the students will go – after all, 37 years of fun (most of the time) and professional satisfaction are hard to separate from. But don’t worry, I will not disappear at the end of the school year. To ensure a smooth transition, I’ll stay involved as Physical Educator Emeritus, and help my replacement to continue and improve the program.

And it goes without saying that in the future, if you need any help or advice with your kids, I am here for you.

I am looking forward to seeing you in future celebrations at ADAT this year and years to come.

With much appreciation and love,


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