Staying Connected: Why Our Administrators Still Teach

Principal Miriam Schiller reads with a student.
Miriam Schiller has been principal of Akiba-Schechter since 1988, and while the school has grown threefold under her leadership, and her administrative duties have grown more than that, every morning she can still be found reading with a first grader or second grader. She says: “I feel there is no better way of connecting with the students than to be teaching them. We want our students to feel a strong connection to the school, so I want to feel a strong connection to them.”

Couldn’t all that be gleaned from observing in the classroom? “No – when you observe there is a buffer: You’re not interacting with the child; you’re observing someone else interact with the child.”

Mrs. Schiller has taught all Akiba-Schechter students how to read, and she feels particularly fortunate because she gets to know them at the very beginning, in first grade: “Reading is the window to learning. It is the basis for everything else, and I love helping children acquire this critical skill. Teaching first grade also gives me a unique perspective as students grow up because I know where they started. I can speak to parents about their child not from up above, but from having taught their child.”

Pre-School Director Carla Goldberg (center) sings with the parent/tot class.
Pre-School Director Carla Goldberg agrees that being the first teacher a child and a family experience is a privilege. Even though she heads up a staff of more than 20, she’s been teaching Akiba-Schechter’s parent/tot class – for children 13 to 24 months old – for 15 years: “Being a child’s first teacher allows me to ensure that it’s a nurturing and challenging experience. I get to plant the seed for a love of learning. I also get to know 15 new families every year, and they become my families. Just the other week I spent time sitting on the floor with the new Kindergartners on their first day because I truly feel connected to them. The parent/tot class is about building community, and I am proud to say that almost all families who have been in parent/tot continue at Akiba-Schechter.”

Mrs. Schiller and Mrs. Goldberg also find that teaching makes them more relatable for their staff. “My foot is still in the trenches,” says Mrs. Goldberg, “I can advise from my own classroom experience.” – “If you don’t teach,” adds Mrs. Schiller, “you don’t experience the children as students, and you can’t really appreciate that vantage point. You can also better advocate for the child vis-à-vis parents because you know what you’re talking about. You’ve been in the classroom, you’ve taught that child.”

And that’s what it’s all about: each and every child.


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