Category Archive for "Leadership Blog"

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,

Shara

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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.

B’Shalom,

Shara

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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,

Haim                   

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Financial Aid Policy Change Announcement

Leadership Blog

Dear Parents,

I hope you all had a wonderful week! For those of you who receive financial aid, I would like to share an important change we’re making to our financial aid process based on feedback we have heard from you. Click below or here to watch my video message about this policy change.

This week’s message is short because there is much to read about below – our community is buzzing with excitement inside and outside the classrooms, and all over campus!

Wishing you a meaningful and restful Shabbat.

B’Shalom,
Shara

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Making with Meaning

Last week, I watched the pick-up rush as our students left us for the last of many start-of-year short weeks due to our holiday schedule. The students were full of all the joy that, seemingly, only a short day of school ahead of a long weekend could bring.

I marveled at the fact that I have had the privilege of watching them exude a similar zeal during an actual school day.

The moments when they have the most zeal is when they have the chance to make something. I caught a glimpse of the same light in their eyes that comes at the precipice of two and a half days off when our 5th graders worked to create a ping-pong table and a “resting nook” for our Sukkah and when our 1st graders were creating lunch bag puppets to demonstrate what it looks and feels like to be a good friend. Adat Ari El kids are makers. When they are making, they are in their element.

The work before the making- that is the hard part. Our teachers began to explore how to better engage our students in making with meaning during our meeting with Devon and Ariel from Stanford’s d.School. We want to inspire them to have the same joy and curiosity when listening to others, gathering data, and finding human-centered needs as they do when solving problems during the making process.

Devon and Ariel have taken this into consideration and have developed an empathy planner for us. Last week, our Math, Hebrew, and Third Grade teachers engaged with this planner to develop experiences that will inspire deep empathy in our students.

Ideas from this session included monthly math labs, sharing our Hebrew vocabulary more regularly with homeroom teachers to foster better collaboration, and (my favorite) the chance to allow students to make something first and then use their prototypes as a way of gaining empathy and gathering data.

These ideas are the spaghetti we have thrown against the wall, looking to see what sticks. I am looking forward to joining our staff as we continue the pursuit of finding more moments of learning that inspire the bright-eyed joy of a four-day weekend.

Click HERE to view the Empathy Planner

B’Shalom,

Lauren Q.

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Be Our “Street Team”

Be Our “Street Team”

Dear Parents,
As Admission season is in full swing, we, at Adat Ari El Day School are so excited and proud to welcome the next set of potential Day School families to our school. As I walk around campus in preparation for these tours, I’m in awe of the energy and excitement exuded by the faculty, students, and families. Whether I see a whole class working together in the Design Lab, or a teacher sitting with a student one-on-one, I’m am so proud and excited to share all that ADAT has to offer! I know you share my enthusiasm, as well, so here are some ways that you can make a difference in spreading positive word of mouth about our school and, in particular, our Prospective Parent Open Houses coming up on November 2 and January 10:
  • One of the newest opportunities is our Parent Ambassador Program.  This new program was created to engage parents in our effort to grow our Day School community. We are looking for parents who are passionate about Adat Ari El and want to share that passion with prospective families, as well as the greater community. This is an excellent opportunity to get involved with the marketing and admissions effort. Parent Ambassadors will attend Prospective Parent Open Houses, give school tours, and help spread the word about ADAT throughout the community. Training will be provided.
  • Word of mouth is the number one reason people choose to attend (and stay at) a school. Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors … people want to hear the authenticity of our families! You never know who may be looking for a Jewish Day School or realize after speaking with you that they want to be a part of our community! (We’re happy to provide you with postcards to distribute to anyone to whom you are speaking.)
  • Social Media is such an important way of communicating in today’s world. Post ADAT happenings on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, or share other people’s posts about our School.  We want to share with anyone and everyone all about what we are doing here, so post, tag, and hashtag your images that exemplify the beauty of our school, whether it is a buddy playdate, a social action activity, or a picture of your family in a Sukkah.
  • Get involved and volunteer!  When others see your involvement, they will follow. And, an involved, active community only adds to our strength.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at any time. If you or someone you know is interested in attending our upcoming Prospective Parent Open House, click here to RSVP.

Warmly,

Sarah

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Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Oh My!

Dear Parents:

We are in the midst of the busiest month of the Jewish calendar. A year ends and another begins, soul searching becomes intense and apologies are made and forgiveness is given, the Torah culminates and begins anew, and finally, Sukkot are built and dining al fresco becomes all the rage.  For many of us, this is a beautiful and exhausting time. We are granted the gift of time – time to be together with family and friends who are our chosen family, time to sit in shul to pray and think, time to have meals with everyone we’ve ever met and extra time at home with our families if we get to disengage from school and work. This is a luxury and can be overwhelming at the same time. Once the holidays pass, we welcome the mundane and yet feel the let down of it, as well.

Are we making meaning during this celebratory time? Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf has said, “Jewish holidays are rendezvous that incorporate not only the dimensions of time and place, but spiritual dimensions that go to the heart of the Jewish understanding of history, the soul, God, and what it means to be a Jew.”  Here at Adat Ari El Day School, we are trying to harness all of this. We are learning the special t’filot, the special readings like Yonah and the big fish, the themes like starting over, being better people, not making the same mistakes, bringing sweetness, freedom and temporary dwellings.

I hope you will get to either build a sukkah or at least enjoy a few meals in one. Perhaps this is the year for a Sukkot sleepover!

Speaking of time outside with your family celebrating, join our community at Camp Ramah for our 2nd Annual Day School Family Shabbaton on December 8-10. Registration is open now through October 27.  We had an awesome weekend together last year with 32 families and look forward to even more this year.

Wishing you a special end to this holiday season.

Chag Sukkot Sameach,

Jodi Lasker
Director of Jewish Life and Learning

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Welcome Back to School!

Dear Parents,

I am thrilled to officially welcome you back to school for the 2017-18 school year … and what an incredible first week it has been! Campus is finally back to how it should be – buzzing with excitement, filled with the sounds of young voices, teachers excited to meet their students and begin anew, and freshly-designed classrooms to spark your children’s curiosity and promote collaboration! We have a wonderful year planned for you and cannot wait to tell you all about it at Back to School Night on Wednesday, September 6. We look forward to seeing you there and to launching the year together with an informative and celebratory evening.

Speaking of celebratory evenings, last week, we held our d.school K12 Lab Network Collaboration Launch Party in the ZDL. With over 60 people from the synagogue, ECC, and of course, Day School, it was so exciting to introduce this new collaboration to our community. Naturally, there was time spent explaining what this collaboration is and what it means for our school. (By the way, it is a collaboration with Stanford University’s d. school, which is the foremost institution in the field of Design Thinking. Their K12 Lab Network brings Design Thinking to schools through professional training and ongoing consulting services, so we are consistently learning from the BEST in this field and sharing that knowledge with our children.)

But, perhaps the best part of the evening was a Design Thinking project that every attendee had the chance to engage in … and they really did! Innovation and excitement was pouring out of the ZDL, and we could not be more proud of this collaboration and of all the attendees who were able to experience Design Thinking and its benefits first-hand. If you were not able to make it, don’t worry, we video recorded the whole event to share with you and you can check out some photos below. Throughout the year, you will also have a chance to hear more from our friends, Ariel and Devin, from the K12 Lab Network.

In the meantime, I want to say, on behalf of the entire administrative team, we are so happy to have you back! We spent much of the summer planning and getting ready for you to be here, and are excited to now share with you all of our plans to make the 17-18 year a truly memorable and successful one!

I hope it was a fantastic first week of school for your children and you!

Shabbat Shalom,

Shara

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Last Blog of the Year/Graduation Message

Dear Parents,

For one last time this year, I wanted to extend my thanks and gratitude to you for a wonderful school year. Though not without its challenges, I am thrilled that our students’ school year was arguably one of the best yet (according to those who have been here a LOT longer than I have!). And, I’m even more excited that the year has ended on such a positive note for all parents, students, and faculty alike! With that, I hope you will go into the summer with enthusiasm for the year that just closed and for all that is still to come in 2017-18. I will check in with you again over the summer, but until then, I hope you have a wonderful, restful, and safe summer break – filled with fun, family, and even a little learning, in whatever capacity that may be!

One last thing – yesterday we celebrated the graduation of our 6th grade class – a class that was truly extraordinary in many ways. Though for many of you, graduation is several years away, I wanted you to have a chance to read the words I shared with this wonderful class, as we bid them farewell (see below).

B’Shalom,

Shara

Head of School Graduation Address

Sixth graders, I like to think of our school as a nest (I know that we have THE Nest, but no, I’m not talking about the babies in the ECC). Your teachers have been here for you in every way you’ve needed as you’ve grown up, here to give you a hug when you had a bad day, to help you learn from choices you made what weren’t the best (although you didn’t have many of those). And as you’ve grown up, your teachers have slowly scaled back their support and protection, so that by the time you have reached today, you are ready for the first step you’re going to take on a middle school campus as a 7th grader. I have confidence in you. You’ve got this. And I have some advice to continue to help guide you, so please, please remember what I’m about to say.

You all have a very strong sense of right and wrong. Some people call it a moral compass. Please, always listen to your moral compass, even if it doesn’t seem like the popular thing to do. You have to trust yourself— if you are uncomfortable about something that’s happening, whether it be choices being made by people around you, or words that someone is saying that leaves you with an uneasy feeling in your stomach… or something that should be happening that isn’t— if someone isn’t being included, if no one is saying thank you, if no one is helping someone who is struggling… BE THE PERSON who steps in to help. Be the person who stands up for others. Because you know what’s right.

I want you to take a moment and reflect on the humongous gift your parents have given you by providing you with this education. You do know that there are schools out there in this world that are free! But your parents wanted a particular type of childhood for you. I’m going to describe some of this to you because, if you have been here your whole life, you might not realize how truly special this place is in comparison to some other schools in the world.

Your parents wanted you in a place where you wouldn’t be just a name on a roll sheet, but where you would be known. Where teachers had small enough classes that they were able to give you any help you ever needed— even if that meant that they were writing back to your emails at 9PM so that you wouldn’t stress out about the test the next day. Your parents wanted a community for you that was steeped in Judaism. Where you would learn about your heritage in a way that would allow you to truly understand what it means to live a meaningful, Jewish life. Your parents didn’t just want a school for you, they wanted you to feel like you were being raised in a village by a community that looks out for each other, and that’s not easy to find in a place as big as Los Angeles. Your parents sacrificed to make sure that you were able to have this, and you should thank them. Not just today— today is an obvious day to thank them— but every time, in the future, you find yourself thinking of a lesson you learned here, thank your parents. Every time you think about this community as an example of what community can be, thank your parents. Every time that you hear that moral compass pointing you in the right direction, thank. your. parents.

Just because you have graduated, does not mean that this connection is over. You want to make any of your teachers really happy? E-mail them with a question from a 7th grade math class, for help studying for an 11th grade US History test, or to ask one of them to edit your college application essay. They will be honored that you thought of them, and thrilled to hear from you. Stay connected with the synagogue for our B’nai Mitzvah and teen programs. Come by and visit when you’re in the neighborhood because you’re home visiting from college.

Know that we are here for you forever. We’re proud of you always. And we miss you. Already.

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