Rabbi Zelig Silber is the current director of MEF’s acclaimed Teacher Training Program.
What drew you to the field of education?
I take immense satisfaction and gratification from teaching others. I come from a few generations of mechanchim (educators) and I took an example from my family – specifically my mother and grandfather and followed in their footsteps. It was always impressed upon me the importance of chinuch and the great privilege it is to be an educator.
How did you first get involved with the Menachem Education Foundation?
In the spring of 2008 I was part of the first group of students in MEF’s pilot Teacher Training Program. After completing a few months of instruction in teaching methodology, classroom management and various other pedagogical skills I went on to become a classroom teacher the very next school year. I have been teaching ever since.
What led you to take on the role of director in the program?
In 2012 I was asked to come and present a few workshops in teaching methodology to the Teacher Training Program. It was particularly meaningful to me as I was a participant of the program just a few years earlier. In the summer 2012 there was a changeover of staff and I was contracted to be the director of 2013’s program and transformed it into the Teacher Induction Program.
How does today’s Teacher Training Program differ from years past?
The program used to be open to anyone who was interested in possibly teaching in the future. The structure was a sort of crash course in instruction. We would bring in expert instructors who would present on their specific field, but there was no running theme or thread connecting the different approaches and methods. It was just many different people presenting on different subjects. Also in past years teachers and trainees did not have substantial exposure to classrooms. Although the programs were successful in their own way we decided to improve upon these two areas this year.
This year each participant is an active teacher who is responsible for at least one core subject every week. Most of the workshops are presented by three expert instructors and all the information is based on the 6 professional teaching standards set by the NTC in California. We focus constantly on reflection, self-assessment, peer collaboration and coaching. We designed the program to be divide by academies – where we present a specific educational idea: lesson planning, connecting with the student as an individual, motivating and engaging techniques, classroom management, working with groups, etc. – and forums where the participants reflect as a group on their real-life experience and implementation of the particular professional standard we are working on. The common thread between the academies and the forums allows for continuous brainstorming and problem-solving, ensuring that every new teacher is up to par.
In what way does MEF’s Teacher Training Program affect the future of our schools?
MEF is a pioneering organization that is gathering all of the talent out there in the field of education, harnessing it and saddling it to professionalism and data. Its tools and programs allow Charedi educators to reflect on their productivity and gives them clear goals and expectations of what the next generation of teachers should look like.
Personally it is a big honor to be a part of MEF. I feel like a cog in the clockwork of this great machine that is pumping out great results. Our success and our products have shown when we plan things out right and when we put people in the proper situation and give them tools to succeed they will produce more effectively and the results will be long-lasting.