Lower School Faculty Member Yael Safran Attends Summer Teacher Leader Fellowship Institute

During the summer, Yael Safran, 1st grade Judaic Studies teacher, completed the three-week intensive Teacher Leader Fellowship Institute at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Ms. Safran was selected to attend this program with fellow educators from all over the United States. 

The Teacher Leader Fellowship Institute focuses on developing leadership skills to strengthen instruction and build collaborative school cultures. During her summer institute, Yael learned about how to be a teacher leader, to work with colleagues and administrators, with a focus on changing a school’s culture while working towards a specific goal.  She joined discussion groups and exchanged experiences, ideas and more during those intense weeks. She also had learned about data-driven decision making, observation and questioning techniques. 

One of the ideas the teacher leaders discussed this summer is the concept of  “adaptive challenge."  An adaptive challenge is a challenging problem whose solution requires experimentation and new learning. To master how to recognize and “dissect” an adaptive challenge, Ms. Safran and her cohort participated in text-based discussions about team-building and organizational change. They developed a common language for talking about teaching and learning and reflected on the role of norms in supporting serious collaboration among teachers. The result is an “expansion of their understanding” of how teacher leaders can help address adaptive challenges and contribute to professional learning and a collaborative culture in their schools. 

In preparation for the summer experience, Ms. Safran discussed and selected an adaptive challenge with the school administration before she left for Brandeis. She chose to focus her leadership work on exploring Hebrew language acquisition at Golda Och Academy’s Lower School. In the beginning, she will work with Kindergarten, first and second grade teachers, leading group discussions and supporting teacher collaboration for this initiative. Ms. Safran will be guided by a coach from Brandeis University and will continue to take distance-learning courses during fall and spring semesters via Zoom. At the completion of these courses, she will join her fellow cohort members for the second summer institute on Brandeis campus next summer.

Ms. Safran said it was extremely enriching to hear other points of view and to learn from other teachers. “This is a very special program where I get to learn and work side by side with other educators,” she said. “This is a very enriching, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I am so fortunate to be able to be part of this program.”