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Aviva Gershman's Profile November 2012

My  name is Aviva Gershman. I am a 2nd year teacher at the Charles E. Smith Upper School in Rockville, MD. I never thought I would be writing in October of this year about how much I loved my job; it was only a year ago that I was completely drowning in work and overwhelmed.

A  year makes a huge difference. As my dear friends from cohort '10 know, my decision to come to PEP was a big one for my entire family; I moved to Jerusalem with a husband and two children who were thrown directly into Israeli public school (a transition made easier by the help of Donna Rudolph, another PEP alum). Prior to joining the Educators Program, I had been in Jewish education for almost a decade working as the Director of Education for Temple Beth-El, the Conservative shul in Richmond, Virginia, my husband's hometown. 

Jewish life in a southern town was a unique and eye-opening experience for me. The four years I spent in Richmond added an important new perspective to my learning and teaching. Being at Pardes further enriched what was already an ongoing quest for Jewish knowledge and spirituality. It gave me the opportunity to learn with people of different ages and persuasions. I am grateful for the lifelong friendships I made at Pardes, and for the constant support of the team in Jerusalem and New York. 

I feel so lucky to be at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School for a second  year. I am teaching many of the same courses I taught last year, but this year I actually get to enjoy teaching them. I have the time to collaborate with wonderful colleagues, get to know my students, and even have lunch with them on occasion. I showed the video of my wedding to the students in my Life Cycle class, one of my favorite classes to teach. It was a great opportunity both to bond with my students and to reinforce their understanding of the parts of a wedding ceremony in an interactive and personal way. I will be inviting all of my Life Cycle students to my older son Jonah's Bar Mitzvah, which will take place  (bshaah tovah umutzlachat) on Shabbat Shekalim this year. 


In addition to growing comfortable in my role as a teacher at Charles E. Smith, it has been exciting to learn as much as I have about technology in the classroom. This year the school became a “one-to-one school,” which means that each student is required to have a laptop for class. This may be a hotly debated issue in education circles, but it has opened up tremendous opportunities for me as a teacher. I now have students submit digital work to a single Google drop box, saving me time searching for their assignments in my email. This past week my 8th grade class in Shmuel Aleph also did something really cool: on a shared Google Doc, my students were responsible for putting all of the events of the first three p’rakim in order. Each student had his or her initials to the left of two or three different sentences and was responsible for putting those sentences in the correct place. As the students worked on this, I projected the document at the front of the room. The entire class had to decide as a group when they thought everything was in the proper order. It was a huge success, and we are going to continue to grow this document with each perek that we read until we have collaboratively assembled a complete outline of the sefer. The students will then have this outline on their computers for quick and easy reference in future Tanach courses. 

It has been a wonderful, if at times overwhelming ride from Israel to a first year of teaching to today. At the same time, it has been one of the greatest adventures of my life! I wish us all continued hatzlachah and wonderful opportunities for collaboration and growth in the rest of this 5773 academic year.