Happy Nurses Appreciation Day to Our Healthcare Heroes

Throughout the pandemic, two of our heroes quietly working behind the scenes have been our campus nurses: Lower School nurse and alumni parent Roberta Coopersmith and Upper School nurse Ilena Kasdan. Since March 2020, these two women have been working around the clock — fielding questions from parents and faculty, consulting with the health committee on Covid safety protocols and keeping up with the latest guidelines and procedures to keep our school running safely. Their responsibilities have shifted from mostly in-office illness/wellness care to a more public health focus on contact tracing at school, keeping up with NJ Department of Health and CDC guidelines, attending webinars and participating in group discussions about GOA policies and procedures. This is all in addition to fulfilling their regular duties of taking care of students on a daily basis here at school. We are truly fortunate to have these exceptional nurses who care so deeply about our school working at Golda Och Academy.

Roberta Coopersmith
Lower School Nurse
Nurse Roberta has been working at the Lower School for the past 10 years, though she has been a part of Golda Och Academy for many years as an alumni parent. Her children, Alexander ’08 and Emery ’11, are proud graduates of Schechter-GOA. While she has witnessed physical changes of the building and staff changes, Nurse Roberta says the most important things have remained the same — the love and warmth of the school and the community. And of course, Nurse Roberta, makes sure the Lower School students feel that love and warmth too. 

Whether tending to boo boos or bruises, Nurse Roberta truly enjoys taking care of the students. “When the students come to see me, it gives me the opportunity to talk about health education — review rest, flossing and how to be kind to one another. A lot of education happens in my office.”

As she walks the halls of the Lower School to check on students, Nurse Roberta says one of the best parts of her job is watching the kids grow. “I love seeing who they become from Kindergarten to 5th grade or from whenever they join the school to when they move up to the Upper School,” she said. 

Prior to coming to GOA, Nurse Roberta worked in virtually all areas of nursing — from hospitals and home care settings to offices and schools. Through the pandemic, Nurse Roberta has been working with other private schools who are a resource for one another and meets with the GOA Health Committee on a regular basis and as needed. In her spare time, Nurse Roberta loves to spend time with her husband Howard and her 14-year-old dog, Snoop Dogg. She also enjoys walking and reading. 

Ilena Kasdan
Upper School Nurse
While Nurse Ilena had always dreamed of being an astronaut as a young girl, she actually began her studies of the sciences at the University of Pennsylvania as a biology major but switched to the nursing school after two years. She began her career as a hospital nurse working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), caring for premature infants and providing comfort to their families. After working in the NICU for years, Nurse Ilena transitioned into outpatient pediatrics, camp nursing and school nursing. She recently celebrated five years working here at GOA. “I love the people here — the students, faculty and staff — and coming to work each morning is a pleasure,” she said. “Building relationships with my students and other staff is very important to me. If people know that they can trust me, they will come to me in times of need. We are very lucky here at GOA to have such a truly caring community.” 

One of her favorite GOA experiences was chaperoning the 2017 Na’ale trip to Israel. “What an amazing trip it was,” said Nurse Ilena. “It allowed me to really bond with the 9th grade students — something that I treasured as they made their way through high school here.” 

Beyond her role as nurse, Nurse Ilena chairs the Health & Wellness committee, where she works with other faculty to bring mental health and wellness programming and education to students, teachers and parents. Outside of school, she loves to read and participate in book clubs, plays the flute in two different community bands and enjoys cooking, baking, outdoor activities and spending time with her children and dog Cliff. Of course, she also loves a good mah jongg game!