May 19, 2024
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May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

From the Upper East Side to Scranton, Pennsylvania

I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania which has a small Jewish community two hours away from NYC. Fast forward 20 years, I was living in Manhattan with my husband and young children and teaching at the highly acclaimed Manhattan High School for Girls (MHS). I loved my job and the opportunity it provided to influence the next generation, and I felt privileged to have been able to glean so much insight into the world of education while working with such an experienced staff. A few years ago, our family decided to move back to Scranton to spend time with my aging parents. Despite the intense commute, I continued teaching at MHS a few days a week, heartbroken at the idea of completely leaving a job I loved and missing the opportunity to continue educating and inspiring young people.

As we moved back to Pennsylvania, a new school opened in Scranton—Beth Shalom Academy (BSA). In my experience, school boards are made up of wonderful people, generally professionals and parents; however, many of these members lack a background and experience in education and therefore there is often a disconnect between the principals and the board. I joined BSA’s board to help bridge that gap and support this growing school with my background in education. When the founding principal of BSA moved to Florida and the school needed growth and restructuring, I stepped in to help find a new principal. That was my plan, but of course, Hashem had other plans and I ended up taking the principal position.

During my 20 years of living in New York City, I had often heard people questioning the academic level of “out of town” schools, assuming that schools outside the tristate area couldn’t match the level of learning and social exposure offered by “in town” schools. I spent 14 years teaching at Manhattan High School for Girls. It is well known that MHS is a top high school that attracts students from all different backgrounds and has a curriculum that brings the extracurricular into the daily class schedule. I personally witnessed the success of this structure while working in NYC, so I and our stellar teaching faculty have adopted a similar model at Beth Shalom Academy. We, as a student-centered school, provide students with daily extracurriculars to complement learning and emotional growth, including sports, martial arts, music, art, digital art, chess club, daily chesed opportunities and life skills. We separate boys and girls at first grade, based on the fact that boys and girls learn differently and need different approaches to the subject matter of their classes. We recognize that children have many interests and varying ways to learn, which is why our competent, caring teachers go the extra mile to teach subject matter in a way that inspires our students to enjoy the learning process. We at BSA don’t just put students in a grade based on the day they were born, but rather we see what their needs are, socially, emotionally, academically and spiritually. It is this student-centered approach that has helped guide and support our growth, as our student body has gone from 16 students to 80 in less than a year and a half.

I never envisioned I would move back to Scranton. I never envisioned I would run a school. And I never envisioned that a small town could have a school which hosts a stellar preschool, elementary and high school. Yet, as I see individual student success stories on a daily basis, I am reminded that success is not determined by location. At BSA we welcome all Jewish children from all backgrounds. We teach our students about our great gedolim including Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav J. B. Soloveitchik and Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Most of all, from preschool to high school, we focus on derech eretz and middot development such as hakarat hatov so that our students may Learn, Love and Live Torah. Come see what we are all about at www.bethshalomacademy.com.

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