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Focus on Sarah Zollman

Sarah is in her fourth year of teaching and continues to commute to Carmel Academy in Greenwich, CT from her home on the Upper West Side in New York City, where she lives with her husband Avi. She usually teaches with shoes on, but remains barefoot on the streets of New York.


On the small white board at the front of my classroom, homework assignments are written every day on the bottom, while the top has the Hebrew and English date and the parsha. These days, the top half of the board is also crowded in with the Omer count and the number of days left in the school year. My fourth year at Carmel Academy is winding down. 


When I started working at Carmel (then WFHA) after completing the Educators Program, I was disappointed to learn that I would be primarily teaching fifth grade, when I had my heart set on middle school. And every year since I have primarily been the fifth grade Judaics teacher while also teaching an assortment of other grades. What started as slight disappointment has turned into love. I love my fifth graders, their silly jokes and their growing maturity. I love watching their blossoming sense of injustice, whether focused on teachers, parents, or characters in the chumash. I love watching them try to fit Adon Olam into the latest pop song and asking if they can rap their Mishnah projects. 


Most of all, I love watching them grow up. Being at a small school means that I see my former students every day in the middle school. Next month, my first group of fifth graders will be graduating from our K-8 school and moving on to the big and scary world of high school. As they work on their graduation projects, I marvel at how far they've come. When they wander into my classroom, they become nostalgic for the projects we did together, and jealous of the new activities that they never had the opportunity to experience. 


Though half of my teaching load seems to change each year, I have remained a fifth grade chumash teacher for four years now and that experience is unparalleled. Not only do I have lessons planned and worksheets created and a sense of how the overall year should flow, I can anticipate my students' questions about words and concepts. I have a back pocket filled with last minute activities and a sense of when to spend an extra ten minutes or a week on an activity that my previous students glossed over. I have nearly memorized the first few chapters of Shemot, a skill that astounds my students, and every so often I look up and realize I am actually caught up on grading, planning, and record keeping. 


Best of all, I have the time to get to know my students. I think that this must be the best part of no longer being a new teacher; I have the time and the energy to spend lunch with my students, hearing about their lives, their loves, and their fears. Sometimes I need to spend the short twenty minutes grading, or meeting with colleagues, or just eating in quiet, but when a gaggle of ten year olds beg their Chumash teach to join them in the cafeteria, how can you say no?