As we sat down with Mrs. Beth Pasternak to understand more about her important work in Bais Yaakov, it was immediately apparent why she has already become a much beloved and invaluable member of the Bais Yaakov team. Her open and warm manner and easy smile, along with her vast teaching expertise and insight into human nature, make her the perfect leader of an exceptional team of teachers working together with the shared goal of enabling every student to succeed.
Tell us a little bit about your educational background and your current role as General Studies Coordinator for Bais Yaakov Lower Elementary School.
I have really loved every stage of my career. My background is in special education, which I taught for close to fifteen years, and enjoyed immensely. At that point I was approached to teach in a typical classroom and I absolutely loved that as well. I was thrilled to be able to take the concepts and methodologies from my smaller classroom experiences and use them to positively impact so many more students. Over the course of my teaching career I have taught almost every subject in almost every elementary and middle school grade.
Now, in my capacity as General Studies Coordinator for Lower Elementary School, my primary focus has largely shifted to the teachers, instead of the students. In a certain sense, the teachers are my class; my role is to make sure they are properly supported and best equipped to reach every student.
Please tell us about the teachers who are members of your team.
That’s exactly right! It’s important to understand that we function beautifully together as a like-minded team. I am so fortunate to be working with some of the most fabulous, dedicated, talented and caring women. Our community is lucky that these exceptional individuals are the ones who are responsible for the educational development and growth of our children. With their creativity, selflessness and eagerness to always improve, they consistently go above and beyond to provide our girls with the richest experience possible.
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
What was always important to me in my classrooms and is pervasive in our department is an atmosphere of absolute positivity. Of course, students are held accountable for their actions; but, with our nurturing philosophy, we guide our girls to a place where they want to make good decisions and where they see that it benefits them when they make good choices. I encourage a classroom environment that incorporates open and spontaneous yet purposeful discussion among the girls, allowing them to engage with each other. With this type of dynamic and focused interaction between students, there is so much more learning going on. Teachers collaborate with each other to create games and projects and constantly share ideas with one another, maximizing learning potential in a fun and exciting way. The girls are enjoying themselves so much that they often don’t even realize how much they are gaining. Of course, teachers are mindful that classrooms retain structure with appropriate quiet time. Incorporating all of this gives the girls so many different opportunities and they are excelling!
Can you give an example of something you have instituted that helps support your teachers and enhances the learning experience for our children?
As I mentioned, I am part of a phenomenal team of teachers who constantly seek to better their teaching methods and keep things fresh and exciting for their students. Each is blessed with certain abilities and has different educational and life experiences that she brings to her classroom. All are so talented in so many different ways. One is a master of creative cross curricular programming, while another is an expert in pedagogy, and yet another is exceptionally gifted in creating activities in which girls work independently and are given the opportunity to make individual choices. Recently, I instituted an initiative in which teachers not only share ideas, but are able to actually observe each other in the classroom. This allows for a deeper and more complete understanding of new teaching processes and implementation. By enabling teachers to observe each other in action they are able to fully incorporate new and exciting methodologies, expand their teaching repertoire and enhance the experience for our girls.
Please give us a glimpse into some exciting programming in your division.
A very special new initiative that is just underway is individualized reading enrichment for all of our students. Modeled after the highly successful kriah program in our Limudei Kodesh department, this initiative affords every student, regardless of her ability, opportunities to read one on one with a teacher or assistant under the guidance of a reading specialist. With such targeted and individual attention, every child will progress and each will be given the tools necessary to succeed.