Three educators from L.A-area Jewish schools were honored on Tuesday, Sept. 25 by the Milken Family Foundation with $15,000 awards for their exceptional contributions to Jewish education.
The winners of the Jewish Educator Awards (JEA) were Ohel Chana High School teacher Fruma Schapiro; Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn School Judaic studies teacher Rabbi Chaim Trainer; and Sinai Akiba Academy kindergarten and Hebrew immersion teacher Ilana Ribak. The three will be recognized on Dec. 14 at an awards luncheon at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel.
Ohel Chana School is located on Beverly Boulevard, Yeshiva Rav Isacsohn is on La Brea Avenue, and Sinai Akiba is on Wilshire Boulevard at Beverly Glen Boulevard.
Milken Family Foundation executive vice president Richard Sandler announced the winners at the three separate ceremonies.
“This is one of the good days,” Sandler said. “The origin of the award was the Milken family’s belief that teaching made a difference but realized it was important to acknowledge Jewish educators. It’s all about elevating educators in teaching and driving home the message to encourage people to do more with teaching.”
The Milken Family Foundation established the JEA initiative in 1990 in cooperation with the Builders of Jewish Education (BJE). The award is meant to provide public recognition and cash awards to teachers, administrators and other education professionals in Los Angeles who have made significant contributions to excellence in BJE-affiliated day schools.
“I have a lot of appreciation for people who believe in me, especially my principal,” said Schapiro, who teaches Torah studies and coordinates extra-curricular activities at Ohel Chana High School for girls. “The award helps affirm for me how important teaching is, and also a sense of responsibility to the position. While we all want to believe in it so much, it calls for a bit of introspective and getting in touch with what I believe.”
Esther P. Kreiman, head of general studies department at Ohel Chana, was happy to watch her longtime colleague receive the award.
“She’s been here since the school’s inception, through relocations and iterations of our administration,” Kreiman said. “She’s a constant. Students connect with her, and she can teach anywhere. I walk by her classroom and kind of wish I was a student again.”
Schapiro – a native of New Orleans and a married mother of 10 children – is not new to recognition for her teaching prowess. Earlier this year, she received honorable mention for the 2016 Menachem Education Foundation Chinuch Awards.
“I’m a big believer in teaching students, not the subject,” Schapiro said. “I think that’s super important, especially after teaching something after many years. It never seems rote if you’re teaching the student and can see that light of understanding in their eyes.”
JEA winners are selected by a committee of educators, professional and lay leaders from the Jewish community. They evaluate each nominee based on exceptional practices in the classroom, school and community, evidence of originality, capacity for leadership, innovation in educational curricula, and demonstrated ability to instill character and self-confidence in students.
“I love what I do and hope to continue to go with the flow, and hope I can continue to be effective. I’m always evaluating that,” Schapiro said.
Los Angeles is the second largest Jewish community in the U.S., behind New York. BJE provides programs and activities that support 9,000 students in 37 day schools and more than 2,500 teachers.
When asked what she would do with the award money, Schapiro said, “You sound like my kids! I just hope to give some back to the school, specifically to programs I believe in. Otherwise I’m not sure.”
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