J'lem: Teach First Israel members team up with US colleagues

57 Teach for America corps members exchange stories of their classroom experiences, while brainstorming solutions to resolve universal problems in education.

Parents Association 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/ Illustrative Photo)
Parents Association 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/ Illustrative Photo)
On Thursday, 57 Teach for America corps members sat down in Jerusalem with their Teach First Israel counterparts to exchange stories of their classroom experiences, while brainstorming solutions to resolve universal problems in education.
They gathered in clusters of eight to 10 to discuss such issues as lack of parental involvement in the educational process, the importance of access to reliable health facilities, nutrition and medicine, public policy and curriculum design.
Both TFA and TFI are part of the Teach for All network, whose independent branches recruit and train teachers to serve for two years in schools with low-income students; Teach for All has highly selective programs around the world, from Argentina to Malaysia.
Though Teach First Israel has only been in place since 2010, its corps members are making significant strides in improving the Israeli education system.
Tori Hornstein, who just completed two years with Teach for America and now works with a nonprofit to promote education reform, said she was inspired by her Teach First Israel counterparts’ dedication to service.
“The thing that impresses me most is the idea that service is a mandate.
They help to repair the world. All of us in TFA are dedicated to that type of service in some way,” she said.
Hornstein it was made clear to her that Teach First Israel corps members “dedicate their entire lives with vigor to service.”
For a week and a half, TFA educators have been traveling around the country through the Teach for America REALITY Israel Experience, hoping to gain insight that will help them to enhance their own teaching methods while working to improve the global education community.
“Israel is such a wonderful place to study American education, as strange as that may seem,” said Peter Weiss, a TFA corps member based in Hawaii.
Israeli educators face many of the same problems as Americans, but their challenges are made even more complex by the regional conflict, he said. “Through studying Israel’s handling of conflict, we can learn what it takes to ensure successful and effective leadership.”
Preference for participation in Teach for America’s REALITY Israel Experience was given to students who had ties to or interest in the Jewish community.
Adam Simon, associate national director of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which supports TFA and the REALITY program, said, “Not only does everyone have a substantial connection to Jewish life, but Israel is a charged place. Every issue that these corps members deal with in the classroom occurs times 100 here.” He cited issues such as the environment, race, the economy and societal expectations.
“TFA has seen the value of a values- based commitment to education equality,” Simon said. “We know [REALITY Israel Experience] alumni are more committed to educational equality than their counterparts [who did not participate in the program].”
Sandy Cardin, president of the Schusterman Family Foundation, said service learning through TFA helped corps members strengthen their Jewish identity. The goal of the foundation and the REALITY experience was to “help TFA members engage with their own values, their faith values,” while allowing them to “get a better understanding of what Israel is all about,” he said.
“Education builds tolerance,” Cardin continued. “We’re working with TFA so TFA can work with more communities... We can build a stronger and better global community.”