ARTICLE Rak Rega, Just a Minute: Teaching and Inspirations from Rivy Poupko Kletenik

In this podcast episode of Rak Rega, Rivy Poupko Kletenik, a 2002 Covenant Award recipient and the Head of School at Seattle Hebrew Academy, discusses the experience of being selected by Brandeis University for the Teacher Learning Project, to develop a shared vision of what “good Jewish education” looks like, and how to help new teachers thrive. “In the first year,” Rivy describes, “all of the teachers in our school leaned in together, struggling, thinking…arguing, about what good teaching looks like, until everyone came to a shared understanding.” That shared understanding, as Rivy explains, had to do with creating a positive Jewish environment in the classroom. “We are a lively beit midrash,” she adds. “We are teachers thinking about subject matter, thinking about practice, having lively conversations about Torah, education and what is best for our students.”

In this episode of Rak Rega, Rivy Poupko Kletenik talks about her vision for an integrated educational Jewish Day School experience, where Jewish American students studying in a dual curricular environment would have an “integrated persona.” She asks if it’s possible to dream that a Kindergarten teacher could one day teach both Judaic Studies and General Studies, in the same classroom, and she muses on what it might be like if a high school Judaic students teacher drew on knowledge of language and narrative when looking at passages from the Torah. What if this master educator also considered poetry and Shakespeare at the same time? She wonders. “Can it happen?”

In this podcast episode, Rivy Poupko Kletenik discusses Project Shalom, a Positive Based Incentive System program. “The core issues that we want in a school of excellence is teachers and all faculty and staff who feel deeply invested in the school and feel respected themselves,” she says, as she explains the impetus for this project. She also addresses the struggle of what it means to take a very lofty ideal like kavod hatalmid, and bring it down to the level of day-to-day minutia of school life: “what does kavod hatalmid look like as we wait in line at recess, or in gym, or in the computer lab? How do we take our deep belief and make it into a hands-on reality for every child and family in our school?” Ultimately, she offers, it’s “patience and time” that foster the meaningful changes within a school community.

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