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Lessons from the Field: Ayeka’s Professional Development of Educators

Published in Jim Joseph Foundation Blog by Michal Fox Smart
Posted on July 15, 2019

At Ayeka, we believe that Jewish education must be broadened to engage the whole student in his or her uniqueness: mind, body, heart, and imagination.  Only when students personally connect with the material will they find it truly meaningful. We partner with six day schools of different denominations across the country to train teachers in our unique pedagogy of Soulful Education.  Our goal is to nurture the inner lives of the teachers themselves and to provide them with the tools to personally, emotionally, and spiritually engage their students. As we near the end of year one, we have successes, challenges, and questions to share.

New Paradigm for Jewish Education
Ayeka shifts the paradigm of Jewish education; as a result, operative questions change. The student no longer asks, “What does this text mean?” but rather, “what does this text mean to me?” The teacher no longer asks, “Have the students mastered the material?” but rather, “Now that the students have mastered the material, how will it impact their lives?”  The role of the teacher also changes, from expert source of information to role model of a Jew on a life-long journey of growth, also learning and seeking to grow by engaging in Torah study.

At leading schools across the country, this paradigm shift is beginning to take hold. Seasoned educators are aware of the disconnect sometimes experienced between their students and the curriculum and want help engaging them. They appreciate the opportunity to step back from the frenetic pace of the school day to become learners again, to hone their skills and refocus their vision, and to renew and deepen their own spiritual connections. Some have been teaching for decades without a clearly articulated philosophy of education. Many tell us that it has been years, even decades, since they personally studied the texts they teach. Now they can approach it anew with fresh eyes. Moreover, students of all ages respond positively to the opportunities for personal reflection, and want more.

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