Q&A with Judaics Teacher Alise Gold, Winner of the Hartman Family Educator of the Year Award

Alise Gold with her students

Alise Gold is the third Akiba-Schechter teacher to win the Annual Hartman Family Foundation Educator of the Year Award, celebrated at the ATT (Associated Talmud Torahs) Annual Gala in November. She has been at Akiba-Schechter since 2011 and teaches 7th/8th grade Jewish Thought as well as Tanach (Bible & Prophets) to 5th/6th graders. She lives in West Rogers Park with her husband and four children, the youngest of which was just born this summer.

Tell us about the process of winning this award. 
Alise Gold: I was nominated in the spring (probably by parents but I don't know that for sure). By May I heard that I was a finalist, which meant I had to put together a teaching portfolio of all the work I had done the previous years. I had already been a finalist last year, so I didn't have to do this from scratch this time around. While creating this portfolio is a lot of work, it is also a great reflection process for me as a teacher and I ended up with a body of work I am really proud of. The last step is an observation by Rabbi Moller from the ATT and a video taping of me teaching that is then reviewed by the judges to determine the winners.

Pictures of Mrs. Gold's "Mishkan" unit

When you look back at your teaching career so far, what are you most proud of?
AG: I'm proud of most of my curriculum, and I am grateful to Akiba-Schechter for giving me the opportunity to create the Jewish Thought curriculum, and also for giving me and Baila a lot of freedom to try different techniques and ideas. I'm particularly proud of the Mishkan unit that we now run every other year. The Mishkan is traditionally not something that much time is spent on in Judaics classes, and yet the Torah is so specific in describing all its different parts, their manufacturing and the way to deal with them. I feel that our unit shows that if something is in the Torah, then we should learn something from it because it's there for a reason. So, in the “Mishkan” unit, students build models of the ancient Israelites’ portable tabernacle and contemplate the meaning of its parts. For example, the Aron (chest) is golden inside and out, but no one ever sees the inside. What a beautiful way to show us humans that it is also important to be golden, i.e. a good person, on the inside, and not only mind what's visible on the outside.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
AG: I was inspired by my high school teachers, especially Mrs. Wainkrantz at Ida Crown. In her class, I saw that Tanach could be fun and could be important to me in my life, and ever since, it's been my goal to bring that to the next generation.

Why do you make the effort to host Shabbatonim in your home?
AG: I want students to see me in my life beyond school, and so I make an effort to host at least one Shabbaton in my house. I experienced this in high school when teachers would invite us into their homes and I think this is such an important part in my approach to teaching: I want what I teach them to matter in their lives, and so I want students to experience how Judaism matters in my life, in my home, and in my family.

Alise Gold (second from right) with co-teacher Baila Brackman (third from left)
with the 8th graders on their graduation trip to Israel in May 2017

You went on the Israel trip in May when you were eight months pregnant with your fourth child--how did that go for you?
AG: Actually, it was the perfect time for my family and me to go on this trip. It was wonderful to do the trip with Baila Brackman, with whom I teach many classes together, and it was such a privilege to experience Israel with the 8th graders, many of whom had been my students. It was another way to connect with them outside the classroom, a different way to spend time with them away from my own family. I am very grateful that I had that opportunity.

How has winning the prize affected you so far?
AG: It's a great validation that I did the right thing in becoming a teacher!


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