Thank You, Hillel Educators!

Dr. Darin S. Katz May 19, 2024

It is Teacher Appreciation Week and I wish to dedicate this blog post to all Hillel Day School administrators, faculty, and staff who have gone above and beyond each and every day this entire school year for all Hillel students.

Like me, I am sure many of you have fond memories of teachers who were inspirational to you during your elementary and Middle School years but if I asked you to think of the one most influential, impactful teacher of your education, who would it be and why? For me it was Mrs. Cohen who was my enrichment teacher from third through sixth grade. Small in stature but dynamic in personality, Mrs. Cohen commanded attention as soon as she walked into a classroom. She was the perfect mix of an educator - kind, compassionate, held students to high standards, stretched me academically yet also knew when to back off when I needed time to master a new skill or concepts. Mrs. Cohen had a profound impact on my education.

There’s no question in my mind that if we were to ask Hillel students who their heroes were this year, many of them would say their teachers. Throughout the entire school year, our leadership, faculty, and staff have shown immense courage, faith, joy, and conviction each and every day so that we could provide for the academic, social, emotional, and spiritual growth of our students. Hillel faculty and staff came into school not knowing if there will be an exposure to COVID, sending us into quarantine for 14 days, or God forbid, actually contracting Covid ourselves. They’ve managed to care and educate our students while balancing concerns for their own well-being and family. Yet my fellow educators faithfully came to school each day because that’s what we do. We adapted; we learned new technologies; we figured out how to engage students across the screen; we learned how to reach an entire classroom with students while wearing a mask, just to name a few skills. We provided a sense of normalcy for all Hillel students, which has proven to be critical for their mental health. 

Whether teachers have been teaching remotely, in a hybrid situation, or in-person, it has been a mix of joy and uncertainty, and nothing short of a miracle. And, if we understand this to be a miracle, we can infer a deep truth about faith itself. According to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l , faith is not certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. Just like the Israelites experienced at every phase of the exodus from Egypt, we do not pretend that life is any easier than it is. The road is not straight and the journey is long. Unexpected things happen. Crises like pandemics suddenly appear and it becomes important to recall the knowledge that we can handle the unknown for God is with us giving us the courage that we need.

When our children look back at this time, they will remember the teachers who reminded them to smile, even if it was behind a mask. It will be the teachers who put themselves before others to make sure that they were safe, even if it meant a socially distanced high-five, or an elbow tap instead of a hug. It will be the teachers who reminded them that learning and fun continues, even if it seems like the world around them has stopped.

We are incredibly grateful for our teachers every day, but at this moment in time, the work they are doing is simply life-changing for our students and their families. Thank you to our Leadership Team, faculty, and staff -- our heroes and the true warriors of this pandemic. 

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Dr. Darin S. Katz

Dr. Darin S. Katz is Head of School at Hillel Day School.