As everyone adjusted to the new normal of remote learning this spring, it became clear that the absence of physical classrooms or typical schedules would not stop the dedication and creativity of Shevach teachers or students. Under the guidance of Shevach Principal Rebbetzin Rochelle Hirtz, and Associate Principal for General Studies Mrs. Nechama Mirsky, the staff reworked extracurricular events to meet the changing realities. Classes were dynamic, collaborative experiences, and in place of several traditional assessments, teachers designed fabulous projects that enabled students to learn through heartfelt writing, high-tech science, and solid teamwork.
When an anticipated in-person speech by Mrs. Rachel Geisler had to be canceled due to the mandated school closures, Mrs. Geisler happily agreed to “meet” with the Shevach students and mothers on Wednesday, May 20, through Google Meet. This was a perfect venue for the event, as Mrs. Geisler has worked at Google for over 14 years. She was able to provide an “inside scoop” on some of the exciting happenings there, especially with the surge in use due to COVID-19-related school and office closures around the world. Through her speech and the question-and-answer session that followed, Mrs. Geisler enthusiastically discussed her schooling and her work at Google, as well as the incredible ways computer science is changing the field of medicine and so much more. As one student, Gitty Howitt, expressed, “Mrs. Geisler showed me that there is much more to technology than my laptop.” Mrs. Geisler shared poignant and humorous lessons about not giving up, the importance of listening to your mother, and the incredible privilege making a kiddush Hashem. Mrs. Geisler’s clear devotion to her family, her love for Torah, and her positive energy made for a highly memorable evening. A special thank you goes to Mr. Barry Grossman and Mrs. Temima Baum for coordinating the event!
As Regents examinations, regular in-person final sessions, and extracurricular trips also had to be canceled, Shevach teachers came up with new ideas to build a successful and enjoyable spring semester. Mrs. Paula Berger’s eleventh grade Earth Science class developed technology-based presentations on environmental issues. Students created films and detailed slideshow presentations of graphs and charts to demonstrate their knowledge and research of topics such as renewable energy, water resources, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. The girls did an exceptional job incorporating graphic design, music, and other tools into their projects. Students in Ms. Sara Nasirov’s tenth grade Global History course created a documentary about India’s struggle for independence in the 20th century, crafted imagined correspondence between family members in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, and wrote newspaper articles about the Cold War. Seniors in Ms. Nasirov’s Economics class created a matching game about taxes, children’s books about investments and insurance, and a trivia game about GDP and the economic cycle. Students reflected that their final projects allowed them to gain a greater understanding of their topic while enjoying the opportunity for creative expression.
Mrs. Rena Hall’s eleventh grade pre-Calculus students created magic mirror graphing books and Spot It! games to share the fun of mathematics. Instead of final exams, the girls presented videos and slide shows on analytical trigonometry, graphing, limits, permutations, combinations and more, using graphics and music. The advanced math students in Mrs. Hall’s ninth grade Geometry class became teachers themselves as they designed review sheets and exam questions, and shared unique presentations on topics such as circles, density, and coordinate geometry. Rabbi Nachi Sonnenblick posted a d’var Torah for his senior college-credit mathematics class each Friday, and he expressed that in some ways the challenges of the past semester created a greater sense of teamwork and purpose in the class.
A canceled museum trip prompted Mrs. Tzivia Meth to bring some of the artwork related to her Modern Jewish History class to her students via computer instead. This sparked great analysis and discussion, all without having to deal with traffic into the city. Mrs. Regina Fischbein’s English students wrote about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through poetry and daily journal writing. The experience of not being able to get together with friends or physically attend school, as well as being “cooped up” with family (who can sometimes be annoying), more seriously coupled with news of tragedies and feelings of fear, were all elements of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, which the ninth grade had read prior to the pandemic. Despite the clear differences between Anne’s much more tragic situation during the Holocaust and their own situations during the pandemic, the girls were able to recognize and relate to some of the thoughts and feelings Anne had while she was in hiding. The girls’ own writings reflected maturity, compassion, longing, and hope.
No one anticipated a semester like the one that just concluded. Mrs. Shari Weiss, whose students presented projects on major American policy making, explained that teachers also learned new skills these past few months. Learning how to teach virtually through Google Meet and Zoom, and brainstorming new ways to motivate students, certainly were challenges. Yes, live debates on human rights are more exiting, but Mrs. Ahuva Bondi’s English students were able to articulate their stances and engage in lively debate from the comfort of their homes with great success.
The descriptions above are just a few examples of the creativity and care of the Shevach faculty. Baruch Hashem, the flexibility, optimism, and dedication of all of the Shevach teachers and students have enabled great accomplishment and growth this spring in unexpected but wonderful ways.