Teacher Spotlight: Marc Sender
Marc Sender is a ShalomLearning Teacher at Am Yisrael, Northfield, IL and Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, IL
I started teaching ShalomLearning a few years ago at Am Yisrael in Northfield, IL. My Education Director, Charlie Sherman is always open to trying new ideas, so I wasn’t surprised when he presented this new curriculum to me.
From the first class, I could see the potential with the materials. The videos resonated with my students, and the lesson plans were ready to go. The kids in my class would get so wrapped up in some of the discussions, sometimes I had to make some tough choices – stop the conversation or determine which of the following activities I’d need to skip. As a teacher, it’s a “good problem” to face.
A few of my experiences with students really drove home the power and importance of the ShalomLearning curriculum. One memory that stands out occurred after a lesson where we learned about treating everybody like they are created B’tzelem Elohim (in God’s image). We watched a video about a school’s buddy bench. Sitting on the bench was used as a signal that the student was looking for friends with whom to play. Other students could then go over and invite the person on the bench to join them. The following week, two girls in my class were clearly excited to tell me something. These two fourth graders (yes, fourth graders!) loved the buddy bench idea so much that they pitched the idea to their elementary school’s principal. To this day, that school now has a buddy bench during recess, and the students in my class regularly check the bench to invite others in. It is that kind of instant connection to students everyday lives that make this values based curriculum so powerful.
This summer, ShalomLearning contacted me about a pilot mentorship program they’re offering this year. I was flattered to be offered a mentor role along with my wife, Shira. (Did I mention she’s a ShalomLearning teacher too?) Together, we assisted at the ShalomLearning Educator Conference in Florida this summer. The conference was great – not only because we were able to attach a mini-vacation onto the trip, but also because it prepared me to lead other trainings here in the Chicago area. Just the other week, Shira and I led a training day for almost 20 ShalomLearning educators in our region.
ShalomLearning’s partners and educators are always inspiring new ideas and ShalomLearning is receptive to feedback and innovation. It is great to be part of the team, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. I am excited to continue to learn and grow with such an amazing team of dedicated Jewish educators!