Spotlight on Emily Ingistov: Westchester Lutheran’s New Head of School

Emily WL

We’re super-excited to feature a Q&A with Emily Ingistov, the new head of Westchester Lutheran School! Westchester Lutheran School is a private Christian school serving Preschool-8thGrade located in Westchester, CA.  Emily has been a familiar face at the school for years and now she’s earned the top job. Congratulations, Emily! –Christina

Question: After receiving your teaching credential and a Master’s of Arts in elementary education from Loyola Marymount University in 2003, you started teaching at Westchester Lutheran School (WLS). Most recently you taught math for grades 6-8. You also hold an administrative credential and a Master’s of Science. What are some of your most important short and long-term goals now that you’re the head of school?

Answer: My short-term goals include implementing a resource program this school year for gifted-students and students with special learning needs, beautifying our campus with improvements to the playground and yard play space, and developing a campus-wide STEM program.  My long-term goal for WLS is to welcome more families to our wonderful school, support ongoing continuing education and professional development for teachers, increase school-wide communication, and continue efforts to integrate technology into the classroom and into the hands of our students.

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Question: How would you describe the educational philosophy of WLS? At WLS, our motto is Believing and Achieving. We have been educating students since 1950.

Answer: At WLS, we make it our mission and goal to educate the whole child so that each child is provided opportunities and experiences to discover and develop their unique gifts and talents in a Christian, nurturing and caring atmosphere.  We aim for high academic success and achievement through our standards-based, differentiated instruction.  We want our students to graduate WLS knowing they have the confidence, knowledge, and skills necessary for succeeding in the world.

Question: What do you think are some of the most innovative trends happening in education right now? Are there any you’d like to incorporate into the curriculum at WLS?

Answer: One innovative trend I am seeing in the field of education is the emphasis of a STEM program so that students are leaders of the world in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  At WLS, we are going to expand and enhance our STEM program and Portals to Science. This is where students will build and learn through hands-on activities about energy and environmental conservation by installing solar panels, creating a battery from a potato, installing rain collection barrels, composting bins, solar ovens, and developing a school-wide recycling program.  In addition to this, we will have a STEM quad for our 6th-8thgrade students where Math, Science, and Technology curriculum will be integrated to promote student learning. The  integration of technology of across the curriculum is another important educational trend we embrace.

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Question: What are qualities you look for in applicant students? What about the parents?

Answer: We are looking for students who are eager to learn, understand new concepts, and grow in a caring, Christian environment where all members are valued and respected for unique differences, weaknesses and strengths. At WLS, we take pride in our strong tradition of academic excellence.  We seek students who are eager to be challenged and engaged in their learning experience.  We welcome parents who understand and value the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and want to be contributing members of our school community through the many volunteer activities we offer. We see parents as partners in educating our students.

Question: Do families need to belong to the Westchester Lutheran Church to enroll at the school?

Answer: We welcome and value ALL students of diverse ethnic backgrounds and faiths at Westchester Lutheran School. One does not have to be a member of the church to attend our school or be of the Lutheran faith.

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Question: Over ninety percent of the school’s eighth graders are accepted by their first choice private high school. Can you talk about how you help prepare kids to apply to private high schools? What are some of the private high schools your students attend?

Answer: Over ninety percent of our students not only are accepted into the high school of their choice, but many of them also receive advanced placement at entrance, including honors programs, and receive academic scholarships for their excellence and achievement. Our students typically attend the following schools after graduation: Loyola H.S., Marymount H.S., St. Monica’s Catholic H.S., Notre Dame Academy, Notre Dame H.S., Pacifica Christian H.S., St. John Bosco, Bishop Montgomery, Harvard Westlake, Windward, and Vista Mar. Our students are highly prepared for the rigors of high school.  Students are taught time management through balancing rigorous academics, various athletics, and extra-curricular activities.  We provide leadership opportunities, including student clubs such as Math Mentor Club, Girl Up, and Student Government. Students take Spanish in elementary and middle school years at WLS which often places students in advanced placement in high school. Many students place into Honors Geometry, Honors English, and Honors Biology as Freshmen in high school and are very successful in these courses.  We are proud of our students and all that they have accomplished while at WLS. They continue to amaze us and make us proud with their continued accomplishments in high school and many prestigious universities.   At WLS, we provide students with the foundation and skills needed to achieve their professional aspirations and goals. Believing and Achieving!

A native of Sacramento, Emily Ingistov arrived in Los Angeles in 1997 after graduating from Saint Francis High School to pursue a degree in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University.  It was during this time at LMU, that Mrs. Ingistov discovered her professional calling to become a teacher while completing a work-study program at Cowan Avenue School as a Site Coordinator in the government-funded program America Reads. Mrs. Ingistov graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science in 2001. Upon graduation, she entered and completed a teaching credential and Masters of Arts in Elementary Education graduate program at LMU while simultaneously teaching 1st and 3rd grade at Visitation School in Westchester. She was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education. In 2003, Mrs. Ingistov joined Westchester Lutheran School to teach 5th grade.  During this time, she found a love for teaching math and became the math teacher for grades 6-8 in 2009.  Mrs. Ingistov obtained a grant to complete a graduate program to earn her Administrative Credential and Masters of Science in School Administration from National University in 2009.  She was inducted into Pi Lambda Theta, an international honor society in education.  Mrs. Ingistov is committed to social justice and academic excellence. She is ready to effect change at a higher level as the new Head of School at Westchester Lutheran School which proudly serves preschool-8th grade students of all religious and ethnic backgrounds.

For more information, visit Westchester Lutheran School.

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Mirman School: Changes Happening Inside and Outside The Classroom

New Courts

Mirman is definitely a school that’s growing! Since Beyond the Brochure last visited the campus in 2015, that growth has been as much physical as it has been pedagogical: a campus expansion effort was wrapped up in the 2016-2017 school year, effectively doubling the school’s size and offering new athletics and community spaces for its students to enjoy. In just two years, the sports program has enjoyed explosive growth and a few championships to boot. Now, any student in Room 4 through Upper School Four has his or her pick of teams to play on.

 

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 “A Mirman School education speaks to all the dimensions of childhood.”

–Dan Vorenberg, Head of School 

As Beyond the Brochure pointed out in the 2015 profile, change continues to be in the air at Mirman — though it’s important to note that this change is all in service of the school’s core mission. A rebranding effort that rolled out in the 2016-2017 school year began with a serious survey of several constituencies, including alumni, past parents, current parents, students, and preschool directors. The resulting changes were aimed, in part, at demystifying what’s happening on this stretch of Mulholland Drive, allowing the school to widen its reach and better serve its mission. The somewhat opaque grade level labels (Room 1, Room 2, etc.) are on their way out, too; last year’s Kindergarten class (this year’s First Grade class) are trailblazers in that the grade level names will change to a more traditional structure as they progress through the ranks.

 

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While it’s true that prospective students still need to meet an IQ requirement before applying, the school has, since the last profile, taken a long look at its admissions process and made some changes to ensure greater accessibility. They no longer accept the Stanford Binet, and instead require a 138 or above on the WPPSI-IV (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence) and the WISC-V (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children). A full IQ FAQ is available on the school’s website by clicking here, but of note is the fact that the Wechsler tests have been updated to consider broad cultural factors and measures several subsets of intelligence. The pool of testers has been narrowed, too, to allow for consistency, and financial assistance is available for those who qualify.

When it comes to financial aid assistance, Mirman is, according to statistics from the California Association of Independent Schools and the National Association of Independent Schools, a leader in its category. One in six families receives some form of tuition assistance, with the average grant outpacing many competitor schools. More information on tuition assistance is outlined here on the school’s website.

 

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Finally, several signature programs continue to grow and gain traction at the school. The World Languages program has expanded to include Mandarin beginning in Kindergarten and running through Upper School. MirmanX is a middle-school startup accelerator which funds three projects each year to the tune of $10,000 to take them from concept to minimum viable product (with the kids retaining all of the intellectual property). A stellar performing arts program includes two full-scale theatre productions each year, and an award-winning Choir will be performing at Carnegie Hall this summer. And the importance of social-emotional learning is underscored by student leadership councils, service learning partnerships, and an Advisory program in the upper school.

For more information, visit www.mirman.org

 

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STEM3 Academy: For Poets and Physicists

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A few months ago, I met with Dr. Ellis Crasnow, the head of school Stem3 Academy for a tour of the campus and a chat about the program. Dr. Crasnow holds a PhD from USC and has taught math, science and English at the college and high school levels. He is friendly and low-key, a welcoming presence at the school. We met at the Valley Glen campus, but Ellis explained that the school also includes a Culver City campus that has expanded to include middle and high school. STEM3 Academy is a school for kids grades 3-12 with social and/or learning differences. STEM3 Academy is a school under The Help Group. STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and math.

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STEM3 Academy School has a warm, nurturing feeling, making you feel like you want to roll up your sleeves and get involved in any of the various classroom projects, even if you’re not a STEM person (I’m definitely not!). Ellis knows the details of every project and he knows every kid’s name and what they’re working on, from coding or expository writing to robotics and a 3D printing project. He explained big concepts and project details, making them come to life with explanations of real-world applications happening in student labs. When I asked Ellis if students must be focused on technology he told me the school welcomes non-STEM students too. He is looking for curious, motivated students in all disciplines, including the arts.

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Here’s my Q&A with Ellis. I hope you’ll check out this amazing school!–Christina

1. Your school is very impressive! Why do you think the place is buzzing with such positive energy? The classes are directed towards student interests and skills—they have an interest in classes like robotics, engineering and design, cybersecurity, and computer programming. In addition, the way in which the classes are taught also plays to their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Classes are hands-on, and students engage in real-world projects so that what they learn is not only of interest to them but also relevant to the world in which they live. That generates excitement.

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2. What kind of student does Stem3 Academy seek to admit? We look for students who are passionate, engaged, interested, who want to learn and try, who are makers and builders. They might be writers or artists, scientists or math whizzes. What they’re interested in matters less than that they are interested. Our goal is to provide them the resources to excel in their area of interest and passion.

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3. What are some of the traits you believe will help a student succeed at Stem3 Academy? Students who are collaborative and creative, who are independent thinkers, who persevere and persist, who are positive and optimistic about their own future and their prospects will be successful. Also those who are strong academically or those who are tactile or kinesthetic learners, or those who don’t learn in traditional ways (by being lectured to or rote learning)—they will all do well with us.

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4. Can you tell us a bit about college acceptances your students have received? Our first year as an independent school, we graduated 5 seniors all of whom went to college. This year (in 2 weeks’ time!) we will graduate 14 seniors who have already been accepted to UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Channel Islands, Woodbury University, Parsons School of Design, Bard College, and many others.

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5. Do you have to be a STEM kid to thrive at Stem3 Academy? No, not at all. We would as happily accept a poet as a physicist. What matters more is the passion a student might have for drawing or drama, or writing. We will support their passion no matter the area of interest. The importance of STEM is due to the overwhelming influence that technology has had on every area of human endeavor—it has changed both what we do and how we do it, and that is as true for an artist as an architect.

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6. How is Stem3 Academy different from public school programs for kids on the spectrum or those with ADHD? We distinguish ourselves in a variety of ways. First, our focus is on learning, not on teaching. Classes are student-focused, not teacher-focused, so that the emphasis is on student collaboration and engagement in making meaning and in learning. Secondly, there is a focus on the development of real-world hands-on projects, which develop student skills in collaboration, communication and creativity. Third, we encourage students to be active learners in class in doing work when teachers can support them, and do passive work (reading, research) for homework when they can work on their own. This is the reverse of what happens in public school programs. Fourth, we encourage the use of technology in all subjects and have rich resources for student use on campus: 3-D printers and pens, CNC mill, DSL cameras and video cameras, drawing pads for digital animation, Go-pro style cameras, sound mixing table, green screen, microphones, tripods, 3 different robotics platforms, etc.

Admissions at STEM3 Academy is on a rolling basis and tuition is $34,000 per year. For more information, visit www.stem3academy.org

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Welcome to Crestview Preparatory: Q and A with Head of School Baudelia Chavez Taylor

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A few weeks ago, I stopped by Crestview Preparatory in La Canada to chat with head of school Baudelia Chavez Tayor. I’d never seen this absolutely charming school, but I’ve heard parents buzzing about it since Baudelia left the Center For Early Education about three years ago to become Crestview’s head of school.

Baudelia is immediately likable, personable and low-key. As we talked, I saw her genuine passion for the school, as our conversation flowed from big picture education trends like STEM, Maker Spaces and Robotics (yes, Crestview has these programs) to what’s happening in the school’s Harry Potter garden which functions as a science lab of sorts. The school plants fruits and veggies that local wildlife animals won’t eat, hence the gorgeous Kumquat tree.

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Crestview is very close to Pasadena and is accessible for families who live in Eagle Rock, Atwater, Silverlake, Los Feliz and other areas including the San Gabriel Valley. The school is a blend of traditional and developmental philosophies, with a focus on respect for childhood. One big change Baudelia instituted since taking over the school is a new homework policy. Now, there is “must-do” homework and “may-do” homework. Homework, Baudelia notes, must reinforce and relate to classroom work. The school has a lot of impressive programs like a robust technology program where kids start learning about computers in kindergarten where, as part of the curriculum, they learn to take apart a computer and put it back together, treating the computer as a “family” of parts that combine to create a whole. In later grades, robotics, coding and maker activities round out the program. The school garden is a real-life laboratory, where students plant and grow various fruits and vegetables, with the goal of learning why certain plants flourished and others withered.

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The school is small, with 155 students total for grades K-6, so Baudelia knows each student and their family personally. She beams with pride as we walk around the campus, peeking in classrooms. She gives credit to her team of teachers, administrators and staff at the school as we walk around the campus. Parent volunteers, she notes, do a lot of work at the school too. Baudelia is no stranger to the secondary school application process, so when it’s time to apply for secondary school, she takes a hands-on approach beginning in 5th grade to help families find the right school for their child. I really like the way she described extracurricular activities, an important part of the secondary school process. She noted that a student can participate in the traditional activities like soccer and piano, but she believes in a broad definition of what comprises a student’s passion like reading voraciously outside of school, which can show a secondary school a student applicant who is studious, patient, imaginative and typically, a very strong writer. So what if your kid doesn’t play soccer! See the impressive list of schools where Crestview kids enroll for secondary school. On my way out, I grabbed a copy of the school’s newspaper, Crestview Blastoff. How cool is that!

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Can you talk a bit about your background and experience? What brought you to Crestview?

I started my career as a teacher at LAUSD working with bilingual students at the middle school level. In 2001, I moved to The Center for Early Education in West Hollywood. I joined as a teacher in the early childhood and moved to the elementary several years later, landing in the third grade- my favorite grade to teach. From there, I joined the administration as the Director of Early Childhood Programs and led the early childhood division for several years before starting my headship at Crestview.

The opportunity to lead Crestview was a blessing, as the moment I visited the school it felt like home. At that time, I was ready to begin a headship and the small size of the Crestview community was perfect. I was drawn to its commitment to elementary education and to providing a balanced school experience to its students.

How would you describe the school’s educational philosophy?

Crestview’s philosophy is centered around the “respect for childhood” and balance in education. We strive to provide structure and nurture as we deliver instruction. We provide hands-on experiences that our students anchor conceptual understanding around.

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Crestview describes itself as “the neighborhood school”. What are some things you do to build a strong school community of parents and students.

Amongst the students, we help build community through our Reading Buddies program. We pair students in kindergarten and third grade, first and fourth grade, and second and fifth grade each year. They initially begin their interactions by reading with each other, as the year progresses they work on projects together, they working on community service initiatives and come together to play on a weekly basis. This allow them to build a strong rapport and feel connected across grade-levels.

With our parents, we have many opportunities for them to volunteer on campus. We also have parties throughout the year that parents attend to get to know each other and build community. We have host families that welcome new families.

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Each school has a unique culture. How would you describe Crestview?

Crestview is a small but mighty school, focused on educating children 5 to 12 years old. It is a welcoming environment that is nimble and dedicated on being reflective. We honor the voices of all constituents and encourage conversation about learning and development.

Parents worry about placement into 7-12 schools. Crestview students go on to top schools in SGV and LA area. What does the school do to help students get into top secondary schools?

Families are supported in the secondary school process by Crestview. We begin the process in fifth grade into the sixth grade year. The head of school meets with every family to discuss the student’s profile, advice focus in the summer, and suggest schools to consider. Students are given mock interviews and practice in writing essays to prepare them for the admission’s process. Here’s a list of some of the schools are graduates attend.

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Crestview offers CTY online for gifted students who are eligible. Can you describe this unique program?

We identify current students in accelerated in mathematics through teacher referral, year-end grade-level tests, and ERB standardized testing results on the independent school norm. When identified they are still responsible for completing their grade-level work as they are provided with above grade-level material according to their individual level. We subsidize the courses for our students.

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What advice would you offer parents who are applying to Crestview? Any tips for getting their child in?

I advice families to be themselves, we are interested in authenticity. We are child advocates and work hard to make the process a welcoming one for prospective families. We want parents and children to feel comfortable and share who they are with us.

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For more information, visit, www.crestviewprep.org

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Beth Hillel Elementary School: A Hidden Jewel With An All-Embracing Vision

While I was having coffee with a Beth Hillel Elementary School (BHES) board member last month, she invited me to visit the school and I immediately accepted the invitation. I’m always intrigued when I hear the words “progressive” and “religious” in the same sentence, so I set up a date to meet the head of school for a tour.  Kathryn Jensen was just announced as permanent head of school, a position she held as “interim” previously.  Kathryn is at the top of her game and she’s ready to take the BHES to the next level. At the top of her list is enrolling more interfaith families. Kathryn is incredibly friendly and outgoing, with a warmth and enthusiasm that makes you want to keep talking to her long after its time to leave. She brings a wealth of experience and her enthusiasm for BHES shines. I enjoyed meeting with Kathryn and hearing about her vision for this “hidden gem” of a school. The school is small and nurturing with a bold, robust curriculum, a wonderful combination for an elementary school. At BHES, “Students should believe they are authors, scientists or artists,” says Kathryn. One thing that is certain to remain unchanged is the school’s impressive placement to top secondary schools like Oakwood and Harvard-Westlake.

 

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Beth Hillel Elementary School (BHES) is a progressively-minded Jewish Day School located in the heart of Valley Village. Beth Hillel Synagogue, which hosts the school’s campus, is affiliated with the Reform Movement – which means that interfaith, LGBT and families of color feel at home here. For further proof, look no further than the synagogue’s senior spiritual leadership – all female. There are three schools that share the campus; Early Child Education, Religious School and the Elementary School.

 

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BHES is a small school with no more than 15 students per class. With such small class sizes, each child receives a significant amount of personal attention, and Individual Success Plans (ISPs) for each child are a big component of BHES’ educational philosophy. These ISPs are created for every student and are crafted by the student’s teacher in collaboration with the student and their family. The ISP sets measurable goals that faculty and family partner on to achieve. These goals may relate to a student’s academic skills, social/emotional toolkit, or work habits. Beginning in Kindergarten, the school opens an Evernote file for every student that preserves a digital record of all of the child’s work, progress, projects and assessments. From worksheets to sound recordings of their first forays into reading, each child’s academic life is diligently chronicled and celebrated.

 

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In addition, BHES realizes that different children have different learning styles: If a child would rather figure out a math problem at a standing desk, or do their reading on a giant bean bag chair in a quiet corner of the room, the school empowers students to use tools that make them successful. How fantastic is that?

 

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BHES features a cutting-edge General Studies curriculum and the school provides for a significant amount of professional development for its teaching staff. Teachers participate in professional development for a minimum of 64 hours throughout the school year and often attend more advanced trainings, like Teacher’s College at Columbia University, during summer months.

 

Based in part on research conducted at the UCLA Lab School, the academic curriculum includes scientifically researched programs such as Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, Responsive Classroom, and Singapore Math. BHES was one of the first schools in the Valley to adopt these highly effective programs, in the belief that more important than their rigorous academic content, these programs teach kids how to think, solve problems, and innovate.

 

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In addition, the school offers a strong robotics and technology program and integrates this curriculum throughout the school day. Starting in 2nd grade, students create interactive stories, games, and animations directly in a browser with MIT’s drag-and-drop programming language. The program is designed to teach students to navigate through the multiple stages of development from brainstorming to play testing. Beginning in 3rd grade, robotics and engineering are part of the science curriculum. Students participate in teams as they learn to program Lego Ev3 Robots and troubleshoot problems that come up. They also learn engineering principles and participate in engineering challenges using the STEAM Trax Design Process. Besides Robotics, Beth Hillel prides itself on complete Arts Integration throughout the school day.

The curriculum follows these core principles:

  1. Students are learning principles of Constructivism (actively built, experiential, evolving, collaborative, problem-solving, and reflective).
  2. Students are engaged in constructing and demonstrating understanding as opposed to just memorizing and reciting knowledge.
  3. Students are constructing and demonstrating their understandings through an art form.
  4. Students are engaged in a process of creating something original as opposed to copying or parroting.
  5. Students will revise their products at least once.
  6. The art form connects to other parts of the curriculum.
  7. The connection is mutually reinforcing.
  8. There is emphasis on both the art form the other subject areas, as well as specified learning objectives.
  9. The objectives evolved since the last time the students engaged with this subject matter.
  10. There is one class per grade level. 

 

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At each grade level, children at Beth Hillel Day School have access to projects and materials that engage them in a way best suited for where they are both academically and developmentally. The result is a steady stream of positive experiences associated with learning and school. As Kathryn Jensen puts it, “Learning is a process that continues throughout our lives and it’s vital for children to discover it early on as a joyful, empowering and fun. Having fun at school makes learning sticky; and it increases student achievement and reduces anxiety.”

 

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The school’s academic results are impressive. In 2014, Beth Hillel Elementary was ranked #1 nationally on the Measuring Success survey for its math program. The school also ranked in the top three schools, nationally, for STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and math integration.

 

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BHES students’ Educational Records Bureau (ERB) results were also impressive: one quarter of their students tested in the 9th stanine, which meant they were in the top 4% of students who were tested nationally. The school is proud that in 2015, 15% of students that were in the qualifying pool, received the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence. A number of BHES students have qualified to participate in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (a gifted program).

 

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As Kathryn puts it, “We are your partners in raising a mensch.” The entire staff feels very strongly that the educational curriculum must go further than explaining the workings of the world to students. It seeks to provide them with a guide for how to be in the world by promoting empathy, curiosity, optimism, self-control and motivation. These character strengths are scientifically proven to prepare students for further success and fulfillment in life. “Teaching our students to find and nurture these qualities within themselves is as central to our curriculum as the academic disciplines, says Jensen.

The Jewish Studies portion of the curriculum focuses on the importance of social justice and social responsibility. Students put this into practice not only through classroom lessons and projects, but also by growing food in the school’s garden to give to the needy, taking field trips to purchase canned goods and packing them into gift baskets with a personalized card to donate to the local food bank, and collecting tzedakah (charitable giving) and clothing in for those in need. The goal is for all students to understand the responsibility all individuals share to care for each other as human beings.

 

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The Religious part of the curriculum supports and enhances the rest of the program. Rabbi Eleanor Steinman, Temple Beth Hillel’s Director of Education, oversees the religious programming. An integral aspect of Jewish tradition is learning to ask questions in an effort to cultivate critical thinking skills. The school’s philosophy supports the belief that a Jewish education and a passionate exploration of the sciences are complimentary to each other, not mutually exclusive.

 

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The same philosophy of education to is applied to Judaic Studies as it is to other subjects. Each child learns about Jewish tradition and belief through various music, art and drama projects. Students begin learning to read and write Hebrew in Kindergarten, and learn about their Jewish identity in an environment that is both progressive and inclusive. Many of BHES’ families are interfaith, and students are encouraged to share and celebrate all aspects of their authentic self.

 

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Graduates of BHES matriculate into a wide variety of middle schools for 7th grade such as Oakwood, Harvard-Westlake, Buckley, Campbell Hall, Heschel, Kadima, and the Millikan Academies (Performing Arts, Civics, Mathematics, Cinematic Arts) and Walter Reed Independent Honors Program and School For Advanced Studies. Ninety-Five percent of students get into their top choice. The application deadline is January 29, 2016. For more information, visit, www.tbhla.com

 

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