It’s time for school, and the view from THA is tremendously exciting! At the eagle’s perspective, you’ll see our beautiful building (designed like a tallit, or prayer shawl) and grounds, ready to embrace teaching and learning every day; our wonderful, engaged, energized community of students, parents, teachers and staff coming together in celebration of a new year. In a few weeks at the right time of day, you’ll see us gathering on the courtyard for our communal shofar blowing as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, led by rabbis and students alike. If your flight takes place on a Friday, you’ll see everyone dressed up to honor and embrace the Sabbath; on Sukkot, dancing, singing, shaking the lulav and etrog and other celebrations throughout the year.
On the ground level things look a bit different. Smiling faces, warm greetings of “Shalom!” and “Boker tov” (good morning) fill the morning air. At the end of the day, families gather in the courtyard to meet their children, students move on to after school programming like orchestra, basketball, art and choir. The hustle and bustle of school routines as we move through our days.
Maybe you’ll catch the THA lion leading a conga line or dancing a brisk hora with kids and teachers in celebration of the first day of school or Israeli Independence Day, or the 8th grade class teaching through their own theater production the important lessons of Yom Kippur or the experience of the Holocaust.
And then there’s visiting classrooms. Children from five to 14 engaging in rigorous, stimulating study of rich secular and Judaic content. Teachers using modern technology and the Internet for lessons, projects, Skyping with our partner classes and friends in Israel, kids using smartphones and portable devices to participate. Modern day as well as traditional study of Jewish texts, exploration and debate of ideas and philosophies; the voices of our children raised in prayer or song; studying Israel and Jewish history from ancient times through today; the joy of a first grader receiving her first prayer book; fourth graders memorizing Shel Silverstein; students of all ages learning to read, write and speak Hebrew … in every classroom a gem of discovery and active learning taking place, abuzz with participation and energy.
What you might miss is the level of change taking place at THA, with new and returning faculty bringing a fresh passion, energy, ideas and expertise into the classroom, to share with colleagues and move our system orward. Improvements in Judaics and Hebrew; revolutionary shifts in middle school math and science, ensuring in two years’ time that all THA graduates will have completed algebra and geometry, as well as inspired learning in the STEM curricular framework, including robotics and opportunities to learn computer coding. Greater use of student data to inform reading instruction, stronger teacher collaboration strategies and time, and more!
Regardless of your vantage point, the wonderful things that make THA a great place to learn, grow and thrive abound. Come visit — we’d love to see you here.
Jon Ben-Asher is head of school at Tucson Hebrew Academy.