We can alleviate Israel's shortage of English teachers - opinion

Olim from all backgrounds can easily become English teachers and help their students speak English better.

 JANET KUPIETZKY trains English teachers in a class at Herzog College. (photo credit: HERZOG COLLEGE)
JANET KUPIETZKY trains English teachers in a class at Herzog College.
(photo credit: HERZOG COLLEGE)

According to the Education Ministry, there are currently 800 classes in Israeli schools that do not have an English teacher.

For many decades, teaching English was not regarded as an educational priority, but Israel’s hi-tech sector has led to a recognition that access to the global economy is predicated on fluent and faultless English. It’s not sufficient for only the privileged elite to demand excellence in English education for their children, every Israeli child should be empowered by their schools to speak and write English fluently. As well, schools in the Arab, National Religious and haredi sectors need to raise their game.

As the son of American olim who worked in hi-tech for many years, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett clearly understood the importance of the English language to Israel’s success as a start-up nation. As education minister in 2017, Naftali Bennett announced plans to improve English language education, and shifted priorities toward verbal proficiency. The Education Ministry set goals to increase the number of students taking four- or five-unit bagrut (matriculation) courses, and recruit high-quality English teachers, including native English speakers.

Living the dream in English

Many idealistic people move to Israel with a wish to make a difference to the success of the Jewish state. Olim from all backgrounds can easily become English teachers and help their students speak English better. There are opportunities in the public and private education sectors, with strong demand for English tutoring in businesses and private homes in many cities.

The Education Ministry of Israel in Jerusalem. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)The Education Ministry of Israel in Jerusalem. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike many other countries where the status of teachers is lowly, Israel has more respect for those who dedicate their lives to educating the next generation and the employment conditions are better than you might expect. For example, teachers in Israel receive a paid sabbatical year every seven years and teachers’ timetables are often conducive to spending several hours with family at home every day. The long summer vacations are ideal for anyone who wants to take extended vacations overseas and visit family back in the old country, and the working hours and vacations are helpful for parents and grandparents.

Herzog College is one of Israel’s leading teacher training colleges and native English speakers who have any academic degree can join the English teaching profession through their fast-track retraining course in only two years. They train men and women on separate campuses, and are particularly focused on raising the standard of English teaching in the religious sector. Many of our graduates are currently working in top Jerusalem and National Religious schools throughout the country. Employment for English teachers is virtually guaranteed, as there are job openings everywhere!

Opportunities for overseas students

Herzog College and Michlalah Jerusalem College are partnering with Sherut Leumi (National Service) agencies for the pioneering Atuda (excellence) program commencing in September 2022. High school graduates from Israel and overseas can become English teachers with a B.Ed. degree in just four years, including two years of National Service in Israeli schools or kindergartens. Girls who make aliyah receive fully-funded tuition, free accommodation and Sherut Leumi benefits, for two of the four years. Overseas students can qualify for the course with their SAT results and can take the mandatory Hebrew test when they feel comfortable speaking the language.

In another innovation that will assist new olim to qualify as English teachers more easily, Herzog College will be offering a double-major in English and Special Education, and a single-major degree in English Teaching beginning the fall 2022 semester. Naturally, students will need to learn good Hebrew, but this single-major degree will allow them to invest more time and energy in acquiring higher levels of language proficiency, stronger teaching skills, and greater familiarity with literature and linguistics.

Practical tools for teaching

Practical experience in the classroom is a key to the success of any teacher. The Herzog College English department prides itself on its practicum program, which ensures that each student receives expert mentoring from a pedagogical counselor and teacher mentor. We work hard to connect the practicum program with the academic studies courses, encouraging a constant and lively dialogue between teaching theory and practice.

Herzog College English graduates enter the profession with a strong sense of mission. Their degree helps the students shape an educator identity that reconciles a religious way of life with an openness to Western culture and its literature. They graduate with an extensive set of 21st century skills, which enable them to foster critical thinking and use an array of cutting-edge teaching tools in their lessons. As well, in light of the pandemic, they have learned how to use digital tools to maximum advantage.

At the end of their degree, students leave the College with a growth mindset, become innovative and creative classroom teachers, and communicate their passion for English to the next generation of Israeli students.

This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the education of Israel’s children, empowering them to become fluent English-speakers who can participate actively in the global community, enhance the success of our nation and build better futures for everyone. We are reaching out to native English speakers, olim and their children, and invite them to become part of the English empowerment movement in Israel.

The writer is director of the English department at Herzog College in Gush Etzion, having made aliyah from Ireland in 1982.