Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Federation's JTEN helps students, teachers gear up for new school year


September 7, 2018

Students, educators and staff at the 2018 JTEN teen retreat at Camp Challenge in Sorrento, Fla., Aug. 6-7, 2018.

Even before the new school year kicked off this month, local students and educators were hard at work learning, sharing and growing by participating in two programs by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando's Jewish Teen Education Network.

On Aug. 6, nearly 40 Central Florida teens gathered at Camp Challenge in Sorrento for "New Beginnings," the first-ever Communitywide Teen Education Retreat, a two-day event sponsored and organized by JTEN.

After the teens arrived, they participated in icebreakers, followed by learning sessions led by Cantor Kim Singer of Temple Shir Shalom and Jayme Epstein of BBYO. Dinner was followed by a campfire (with s'mores, of course) and a sing down led by Amy Geboff of Congregation Ohev Shalom. The students enjoyed dessert before heading back to their cabins for the night.

Day Two of the retreat opened with a prayerful meditation led by Rabbi Joshua Neely, followed by a Shacharit morning service and nature walk. Daniel Nabatain and Lauren Oback of Congregation of Reform Judaism oversaw the morning learning sessions. As the program drew to an end in the afternoon, Dr. Sheryl Sacharoff (Congregation of Reform Judaism) led the closing session, inspired by Mr. Roger's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

All of the learning sessions were tied into the theme of Rosh Hashanah-new beginnings, making a fresh start and being more mindful in the new school year and new Jewish year.

Five days later, on Aug. 12, it was the teachers' turn to pick up some new tricks of the trade during "Building Your Teachers' Toolkit," a daylong workshop held at Congregation Ohev Shalom. The workshop was a collaborative effort between the Federation and the JTEN Educators of six synagogues-Congregation Beth Am, Congregation Ohev Shalom, Congregation of Reform Judaism, Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation, Temple Israel and Temple Shir Shalom.

In attendance were 50 teachers from six synagogues, including the JTEN Educators, representing more than 700 combined years of teaching experience. 

The theme and structure of the 2018 workshop was the result of the feedback received after the first JTEN teachers' workshop last year. Teachers said overwhelmingly that they wanted more opportunities to share, network and connect with other teachers in our community. 

Prior to this year's workshop, teachers submitted their "best" lesson plans, which served as the launch point for a discussion focusing on creative and innovative ways educators can be most effective in the classroom. The lesson plans were compiled and saved on JTEN-branded electronic flash drives that were given to each teacher as their Teacher's Toolkit, which they can continue to build. The Federation plans to make these and future lesson plans available for download by educators via the Federation website.

All teachers received a professional development certificate from the Jewish Federation. 

The workshop was planned by the JTEN Educators: Rabbi Joshua Neely (Temple Israel), Amy Geboff (Congregation Ohev Shalom), Cantor Kim Singer (Temple Shir Shalom), Dr. Sheryl Sacharoff (Congregation of Reform Judaism) and Cantor Nina Fine (Congregation Beth Am). Rabbi Hillel Skolnik, formerly of SOJC, was instrumental in helping to plan the workshop before he moved out of state.

Federation JTEN Coordinator Jennifer Cohen said she has heard a lot of positive feedback from participants in both events.

"People said it was inspiring to see our teens so engaged in a meaningful learning experience at the retreat, and the teachers at the workshop were thrilled to have the opportunity to interact and share their ideas," Cohen said.


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