Hillel has been on a journey to improve and change education to best meet the needs of today’s learners. We want them to be ready for the world that they will inherit, while also deeply internalizing what it means to be a part of the Jewish people.
We regularly look for evidence that our journey is bearing fruit. One way is through annual standardized assessments to learn how our students compare to their peers at public and private schools throughout the country. Another way is to solicit feedback from our graduates. A third way is to receive feedback from fellow educators who visit our school from all over the country and abroad.
These past two weeks indicate strongly that Hillel is doing very well! Jennifer Rosenberg, Head of the Ann Arbor Jewish Day School; the educational team from Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, IL, including Principal Hadar Dohn; the Superintendent of the Saline Public Schools, Scot Gardner; the Superintendent of the Chelsea Public schools, Julie Helber; and former Hillel teacher Charlotte Abramson, now Director of The Legacy Heritage Instructional Leadership Institute, all visited Hillel.
In a thank you note, Hadar Dohn wrote, “I was so impressed to see how the way the school looks matches the way that it seems. It is inviting, engaging, and creative. The students and faculty seem happy and the culture is collaborative and cooperative. It was a real joy to watch.”
Jennifer Rosenberg, in her note, wrote, “I deeply enjoyed my visit this week…One of the most obvious observations I made was the consistency of the vision you articulated and what I saw as we moved through the school. You have created an incredible learning environment – inspiring and exciting.”
Scot Gardner wrote, “It is an amazing place! It was inspiring to see the physical environment and also the staff that are engaged in the process.”
Charlotte Abramson wrote a thank you, stating in part, “I wanted to experience how space impacts a learning community. I learned how much thinking about teaching and learning went into that space. Not only is the space beautiful, aesthetic and each detail deliberately planned, the spaces and learning communities encourage teachers to move forward with 21C teaching and learning. It is extraordinary to see a realization of a vision.”
Receiving such affirmations from colleagues is validating and inspiring. These are educators hoping to make the same necessary transformations at their schools, and they are among the more than 100 educators who have already visited Hillel, from all over, hoping to do what we are doing at Hillel.
Two weeks ago, we also hosted a high school preparedness panel discussion, and heard from local school leaders and alumni themselves that Hillel students are prepared academically and emotionally for high school.
The participating educators, across the board, are striving to supplant “learning to the test” with “purposeful, meaningful” projects and assignments. They understand that developing kids to be “thinkers,” and not test scores alone, are the keys to one’s future success. They all clearly acknowledged and supported the educational approach that has been embraced at Hillel.
They said that Hillel students arrive at their schools ready to advocate for themselves, take on challenges, assume leadership roles, seek out teachers, and even start new activities and clubs.
“They bring in those abilities, and then bring others along with them in a positive way,” said Cathy Hurley, the principal of Groves High School.
As we reported in our school-wide newsletter, Hillel alumni representing four of the high schools each said the initial transition from Hillel, with its warm, intimate environment, to a larger school was, naturally, a bit daunting, but that over time they all adjusted well. They came to appreciate the diversity high school can offer, while also “solidifying my own Jewish identity,” said Jonathan Cher (class of 2013), now the valedictorian of his senior class at Berkley High School.
Maddie Fink (class of 2013), a senior at Cranbrook, said the toughest part of the transition can be learning to manage one’s time, given the increased amount of homework, “but you can’t prepare for something like that until you have to do it, and then you figure it out. And the upside of high school is that there are so many great people to meet.”
All four seniors unequivocally stated that they were ready for high school and comfortable with themselves to excel and to immerse themselves in all that their high schools had to offer.
As the recruitment season for the 2017-18 school year begins, with our ECC-Grade 8 Open House on Thursday, November 17, at 9:30 a.m., share this blog with friends and family, and let them know that Hillel Day School is a gem in our community – the evidence speaks for itself!