As Nora Horn prepares to retire after 19 years at Shalom Torah Academy in East Windsor, she thinks back on the children and programs that flourished during her tenure with a sense of satisfaction — tinged with sadness.
She is sorry to leave her post as general studies principal at the school she’s called home for close to two decades, she said, but “they say the journey is the reward, and it is really is true,” said Horn. She spoke with NJJN just days before she was to be honored June 17 at the annual dinner of the Shalom Torah Academies, which also has a school in Morganville.
“I feel so fortunate when I see children who have had difficulties settling arguments or children having problems with their studies adjusting and changing,” she said.
Succeeding Horn will be Devirah Greenfield, an experienced educator coming from a Brooklyn day school.
Horn taught English for about seven years at STA before taking over as principal for 12 years. She relished the opportunity to make the jump to administrator because, she said, “I always enjoyed interacting with teachers and children and this gave me the opportunity to expand the number of children and programs I could affect.”
Innovations instituted at the Orthodox day school during her tenure at the helm include a hands-on economics course, courses in geography and entomology, and a series of speakers with the aim of expanding the students’ academic horizons.
American holidays were enthusiastically celebrated at the day school, from Thanksgiving feasts to musical productions marking Presidents’ Day.
Under her watch, said Horn, “the children always learned to love their country and be patriotic. We always bring in a local soldier on Veterans’ Day. We’ve brought in the mayor, the county executive, the county surrogate.”
Horn came to Shalom Torah after teaching language arts and supervising student teaching for 17 years at the College of Staten Island. She intends to keep her position teaching in Lakewood at the Institute for Special Education of the Sara Schenirer Seminary, an Orthodox women’s institution affiliated with Mercy College.
‘A lifelong learner’
In her years as an educator, Horn said, the most striking change has been the technology revolution.
“The students are very savvy when it comes to technology, and our children learn how to use PowerPoint and other technology so they will be prepared to work in this century,” said Horn, adding that Shalom Torah has state-of-the art computer labs and high-tech equipment.
“We incorporate all the latest technological advances, but some things never change,” said Horn. “The ability to analyze and research, the ability to work a mathematical problem that sparks that initiative, and the ability to learn will always be a part of our education.”
The students’ reliance on social media and technology, rather than on interpersonal skills, however, worries Horn.
“Their mindset about their ways of communicating has changed, which is endemic in the population,” she said. “Everyone uses technology instead of face-to-face communicating….
“This is something educators across the country are facing. It makes me very concerned that people in the future will lose the ability to communicate face-to-face and lose those basic skills we were taught in elementary school: how to be polite, how to answer, how to interact with others.”
Horn added that even her college students have to be continually reminded to turn off their cell phones in class.
The East Windsor resident said that after her retirement she hopes to travel, work on her family’s genealogy, and devote time to her four children — two of whom live in Israel — and her “10 and a half” grandchildren. Her husband, Arthur, retired last year as a computer analyst for the New York City Transit Authority and now tutors at Mercer County Community College.
She and her husband, she said, are “healthy and feel we have a window of 10 to 12 years to do the things we put off all those years while we focused on raising good kids. We sacrificed time, effort, and money and now we have the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
She also said she plans to take classes, because “it’s important to be a lifelong learner.”