Our Stories

Supporting and Developing Teachers through the Jewish New Teacher Project Partnership

March 19, 2015 by Ronit Greenstein (Faculty and Staff)

A great school requires the best teachers. JPDS-NC is committed to not only attracting and retaining our extraordinary faculty but to nurturing their talent as well. One of the ways we support and develop our new and veteran teachers is through the Jewish New Teachers Project (JNTP). JNTP is based on the work of the New Teacher Center (NTC) at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation, the UJA Federation of New York, and the Jim Joseph Foundation. The program offers a fully integrated and formative interactive model of teacher support to recruit and retain quality teachers in Jewish day schools. JPDS-NC has been partnering with JNTP since they first launched their program in the Baltimore/Washington area in 2008.

Whereas only 50% of new teachers remain in the profession beyond five years according to national studies, 90% of the teachers involved in the Jewish New Teachers Project have remained in the field of Jewish education over the long term. Both NTC and JNTP exist to improve the skills of and the retention of new teachers through mentoring that provides professional and emotional support. The skills of a JNTP teacher after the first two years are equivalent to the skills of a teacher after four years. And 50% of teachers trained as mentors through the program become teacher-leaders, while 30% of teachers who receive mentoring do as well.

JPDS-NC has made an important commitment to the program. There are currently five teachers who have been trained, or are in training, and are working as mentors in the school – Shoshana Sfarzada, Janet Collier, Lisa Schopf, Zahava Bensimon, and Candace Manor. Mentors attend six professional development academies and participate in monthly forums over the course of two years. After that, continuing professional development and support are available. Since 2008, more than a dozen teachers new to the profession have received mentoring at JPDS-NC. They are observed weekly and meet weekly with their mentors. In addition, they, too, receive professional development opportunities. Currently, five of our teachers are in their first or second year of mentoring.

Through the development of a trusting and confidential relationship, the new teachers are helped with acculturation to the school, skill-building, problem-solving, and collaboration through a variety of tools developed by NTP/JNTP. They also know they always have someone they can turn to for support and guidance. When teachers explain to their students that they are missing class time to extend their own learning, they not only model “lifelong learning,” they are engaging in a dynamic process that boosts both skills and enthusiasm for teaching in ways that directly improve students’ experiences. Kindergarten teacher and Pedagogista Laura Cohen noted, “I feel indebted to JPDS-NC and my JNTP mentor, Marti Herskovitz, who provided me with a solid foundation so early in my career. I found strength and confidence in knowing that I always had a sounding board and someone in my corner. Marti became not only a guide on my journey, but also a dear friend. She has been back to visit in each of my classrooms since I completed my time with JNTP, and even came in as a guest lecturer on quilts this past week! I feel privileged to work at a school that recognizes and values this professional development.”

It is not only the new teachers (and their students) who benefit from the program. All the mentors report that what they have learned through JNTP has significantly impacted their own practice with students and enhanced their work with other colleagues. Our participation in this program encourages all the teachers involved to share their learning and influence the tenor and environment at our school. “Serving as a mentor teacher at JPDS-NC has been a transformative experience for me,” said Zahava Bensimon, a Judaic Studies Teacher in Grades 3 and 4. “It has provided me with continued opportunities to reflect on, analyze, and improve my own teaching. Topics such as pre-assessing student knowledge prior to beginning a unit, differentiating instruction, and managing classroom procedures, to name just a few, are all elements of the JNTP program that I have been trained in to help implement with my new teacher. Naturally, my own teaching improves exponentially as well, as I turn to my own classroom with a fine-toothed comb to monitor and assess my own progress, even in my decade-plus working here.”

Judy Rosenblatt, who oversees JNTP’s regional program reflected, “We at the Jewish New Teacher Project have been blessed with our collaboration with JPDS-NC since we first launched our program in the Baltimore/Washington area. The school’s leadership team of Naomi Reem, David Zimand, Sharon Freundel, and Melissa Davis are to be commended – as they were by the Avi Chai Foundation and the Jim Joseph Foundation – for their absolute commitment to supporting their teachers. We are proud that JPDS-NC has chosen to work with JNTP, training their excellent veteran teachers to mentor their beginning teachers in our nationally acclaimed program. Over these last seven years, JPDS-NC has invested in more than a dozen teachers, and we are proud to continue our collaboration.”