JEWISH FEDERATION of Greater MetroWest NJ held its third biannual Quest for Teaching Excellence Conference on Nov. 7.
The conference, a community collaboration promoting professional development, brought together more than 450 teachers and staff from the region’s Jewish day schools: Gottesman RTW Academy (GRTWA) in Randolph, Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange, Jewish Educational Center (JEC) in Elizabeth, and Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (JKHA-RKYHS) in Livingston.
At the conference, the Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative (DSI) launched two projects:
The Jerry Gottesman Fund for the Pursuit of Teaching Excellence: a $250,000 endowment of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ (JCF) created in memory of the day school benefactor and leader, who died Sept. 10 while in Israel with family. Gottesman, with his wife, Paula, was the initiative’s lead benefactor for more than a decade and first envisioned the partnership of the denominationally diverse schools.
Donors representing the four schools made gifts in his memory to the JCF to establish the fund, and matching funds came through the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation. The new fund will provide an award every other year to honor one educator from each of the schools.
The first winners, announced at the conference, are: Heather Liebowitz, early childhood teacher from JEC; Nancy Delman, a former early childhood teacher and professional development coordinator from GRTWA; Paula Spack, who teaches first grade at Golda Och Academy; and Sri Sundaram, a middle school STEM teacher at JKHA. Congratulating the winners at event were Paula Gottesman of Morristown, and one of the Gottesmans’ daughters, Archie Gottesman of Summit, as well as some of the fund donors.
The winners were selected by their respective schools based on “demonstrated exceptional initiative in professional learning and collaboration.”
Jerry Gottesman “believed in Jewish day school education, in collaboration, in donor partnership, in achievement,” said long time DSI leader Steven Levy of Morristown. “And in business as well as in philanthropy, he believed in treating employees with respect and in investing in them. Now we are honoring Jerry with a fund that will perpetuate this part of his legacy for years to come.”
Income from the new fund will enable the four educators to take part in an extended professional development experience together and to bring newly acquired expertise back to their schools and the day school collaborative.
The conference opened with “Day School Carpool Karaoke” — a take-off on comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” with celebrities — featuring Paula Gottesman as the driver picking up, and singing along with, the schools’ professional leaders: JEC executive director Steve Karp and heads of school Rabbi Eliezer Rubin, JKHA-RKYHS; Moshe Vaknin, GRTWA; and Adam Shapiro, GOA. (The video can be seen at jfedgmw.org/dayschoolcarpool.)