JNF WIRE: PhDs, Professors, and World Experts Lend Their Time to Educate Students at Alexander Muss High School in Israe
January 11, 2017
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
PhDs, Professors, and World Experts Lend Their Time to
Educate Students at Alexander Muss High School in Israel
By: Adinah Brown
On a typical day at Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI-JNF), it’s not uncommon to cross paths with the Program Associate of “Facing History and Ourselves” at the Hod HaSharon campus. Sometimes, the passerby will be the editor-in-chief of Isradon Publications and author of 22 books in mathematics and science. Other times a student might stop in the halls and have a short chat with a trained U.S. SAT-prep tutor.
Meet Hephzibah Alon, Michael Shterenshis, and Alex Lasky, all of whom are teachers at AMHSI and represent the caliber of educators found at this internationally renowned school.
Alon, Shterenshis, and Lasky teach part-time in AMHSI’s General Studies department. The school holds a dual curriculum of Israel Studies and General Studies. As part of the school’s Israel Studies program, students take field trips and learn about Jewish history at the sites where they occurred. Sometimes the classroom is the plaza that lies at the base of the Western Wall, where students learn about Jewish sovereignty and the importance of hope in the collective memory of their heritage. Other times it can be on the hilltop at Masada, where students learn about the destruction of the Second Temple, or it can be at the Jaffa Port, where they learn the history of the first olim [immigrants] back to the land of Israel.
AMHSI’s General Studies program, which includes math, science, and English, among other typical secular studies, are intertwined within this context of learning. Educators work closely with students’ home schools to develop a syllabus that replicates the curriculum being taught during their time abroad. With specialized planning in advance and throughout the course of study, AMHSI teachers are tasked with ensuring that students don’t skip a beat upon their return home, and they can do so with flexible hours that allows them to pursue passions and additional career advancements. The set-up is a win-win. The school can provide students with outstanding educators, and the teachers have additional time in the week for their additional needs and interests.
Alon is AMHSI’s English literature and history teacher. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Linguistics from the prestigious Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a Masters of Arts in English Literature from Bar Ilan University. Prior to joining AMHSI part-time, she taught English at the school from 2004-2009, and in 2009 took the opportunity to move to the U.S. where she received training on how to teach Holocaust studies through “Facing History and Ourselves,” a nonprofit educational initiative that offers unique methods of teaching students about human rights and social justice events throughout history.
Alon went on to become a program associate at Facing History and Ourselves, where she mentored teachers and ran workshops on how to effectively teach this important subject to the next generation of emerging leaders. In 2016, she returned to Israel and began teaching English at AMSHI while continuing to work for Facing History and Ourselves during her free time.
As an educator, Alon deeply believes in AMHSI's approach to experiential learning, and believes that she gains insight from teaching overseas students, as it provides a constant point of reflection of the veracity and diversity of the Jewish experience in the diaspora.
Dr. Shterenshis has been at AMHSI for over 16 years and teaches biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, physics, environmental sciences, marine biology, and, occasionally forensics. He holds an MD from Tashkent State Biomedical University, and after moving to Israel, he specialized in the History of the Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Prior to teaching at AMHSI, Dr. Sterenshis lectured at the Midreshet Yerushalaim University and worked at the Embassy of Uzbekistan. In 2003, he became editor-in-chief of Isradon Publishing, Ltd., and has since authored 22 books.
His comprehensive and theoretical and practical knowledge of the sciences makes his teaching contributions at AMHSI highly valued. Dr. Shterenshis says that during his spare time he enjoys conducting research projects and giving lectures on medicine.
In his classes at AMHSI, Dr. Shterenshis likes to focus on helping students train their brain in comprehending concepts rather than covering each subject in depth. For example, in his classes students are more likely to be engaged in experiments rather than sitting in front of a chemistry book. He finds the classes provided at AMHSI to be far more dynamic and intensive than those offered at regular schools, which keeps him on his toes. He explained jovially: “At AMHSI, you’re never bored. Instead of a regular full school year program, there are several two or three month programs throughout the course of the year. This means that as a teacher I need to be able to quickly adjust to new assignments, new syllabi, and new students.”
Lasky, who teaches algebra and geometry, first heard about AMHSI while she was still living in her hometown of Miami, Florida. “Alexander Muss was always a name that was heard around Jewish high schools. Students regularly travelled to AMHSI, so I was familiar with the institution and the educational setting. After I moved to Israel, I saw a job opportunity for a math teacher and jumped at the chance to work here,” she explained.
Lasky appreciates the flexibility of working part-time as it provides her with some flexibility in her schedule and other commitments. Recently, she has assumed a temporary position as Director of Enrollment while a staff member is out on maternity leave. The flexibility of her teaching position means that she can be involved in the school in multiple, meaningful ways that contribute to her sense of job satisfaction.
As an educator at AMHSI, Lasky particularly appreciates the fact that teachers are able to take the lead in creating curriculums as they see fit. While there is an outline with the basic curriculum provided by the students’ home schools, there are still many ways educators can adapt their lesson plans to the students’ needs and an opportunity to get creative. The chance to teach students from overseas also adds an enjoyable element to Lasky’s workday. “I enjoy hearing the differences that American students experience when living in Israel. Since I have lived and worked here for some time, it’s interesting to hear about their experiences, particularly about the small things that they comment about and enjoy during their short semester away from home,” Lasky said.
AMHSI offers the opportunity for college-bound high school students to be surrounded by new places and new people, and to be enlivened by a vibrant school experience that will take them through the streets of their heritage, their history, and their homeland. The symbiotic interaction between the Israel and General Studies programs means that the experiences had on tiyulim [field trips] are more fully explored in the classroom. At AMHSI, academia becomes a platform for deeper inquiry, and plants the seeds for students to become future Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel.
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