How The Leffell School’s Sarit Nevo Ended up Presenting at the Global Language Conference

Assuring students’ achievement in communicative Hebrew language skills is a high priority at The Leffell School. The Hebrew leaders of each division are deeply committed to the professional growth of their teachers and the senior leadership is equally committed to the professional growth of the Hebrew leaders.  

Dr. Michael Kay, Leffell’s Head of School, shared an email invitation to his Hebrew leaders with an interesting challenge: to submit a proposal to be a presenter at a Global Language Conference, to teachers of many different world languages. Sarit Nevo, Leffell’s new Middle School Ivrit Department Chair, accepted the challenge.  

Hebrew at the Center’s “Member School Highlight” sat down for an interview with Sarit to learn what led her to make 2 presentations at the New York State Association of Independent Schools’ Global Language Conference, and how this experience evolved to launch the upcoming in-person Shiur Ivrit Conference, to be held on Sunday, April 7, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM EDT, at the Leffell School in Hartsdate, New York: 

MSH: How did you find this opportunity to present at a World Language Conference?  

Sarit: This is my 6th year teaching Hebrew in a Jewish day school and my first year as a department chair. Dr. Kay received an email from New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) with a call for proposals for their World Language Conference. Our school is a member of NYSAIS, which sponsors outstanding professional conferences throughout the year. Occasionally, there are opportunities for teachers at member schools to lead sessions at these conferences. Thinking that Hebrew teachers should be a part of this large community of language teachers, I decided to apply. My decision to participate wasn’t solely driven by personal ambition; rather, it was rooted in a desire to enrich the broader language teaching community. By offering insights into Hebrew pedagogy employed at The Leffell School, I aimed to elevate the status of Hebrew language instruction and foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation. It was an opportunity to bridge cultures and celebrate diversity. Then the war broke out, I wasn’t sure this was the right time for Hebrew to be front and center, but decided to move forward. 

MSH: What was your presentation about? 

Sarit: I wanted to enrich the global language community and bring Hebrew to the forefront of our field. Recognizing the immense and multifaceted value of Hebrew educators contributing to the broader discourse on language education, I wrote two proposals. To my great surprise, both were accepted! I presented two units that I am very proud of and that are innovative and unique. The first was: The Power of Songs in Second Language Acquisition. The second was: Extensive Authentic Reading in Second Language Acquisition. 

These workshops were designed to bring both theory and practice, providing practical tools and strategies that attending teachers could immediately implement in their World Language classrooms, regardless of what language they teach. I developed detailed teacher guides, in English, to accompany the workshops, ensuring that the knowledge shared could be effectively applied in diverse educational and world language settings.  

MSH: What make you feel that you were ready to send a proposal for a conference that was outside of the Jewish day school space?  

Sarit: Wow! When Dr. Kay, our Head of School, shared that Hebrew has historically not been highly represented at this conference, I felt compelled to change that narrative. I recognized the importance of highlighting Hebrew education within a broader educational context. 

Although presenting at this conference was outside of my comfort zone – requiring me to present in English – I was driven by the opportunity to both learn from and contribute to other language educators. I firmly believe that while I have much to learn from teachers of other languages and cultures, I also have valuable insights to share. I approached the task with unwavering determination, dedicating my weekends over the next two months to develop comprehensive workshops. My husband and daughters were very generous to give me the time and space to prepare. 

MSH: Why do you think it is important for Hebrew language educators to present at such a conference?  

Sarit: I think it is important for Hebrew language teachers to present in a global language conference for a few reasons: 

  1. Representation: By presenting at conferences, Hebrew language educators contribute to the visibility and recognition of Hebrew as a language of study. They showcase the richness and diversity of Hebrew language instruction. As we are mostly teaching in Jewish schools and communities, we don’t have many opportunities to be a part of that larger community of language teachers. The NYSAIS Conference presented the opportunity for Hebrew at be represented. 
  1. Networking Opportunities: Conferences bring together a diverse community of language educators from various backgrounds and contexts. Participating in such events allows Hebrew language educators to network with peers, exchange ideas, and establish valuable connections. These networking opportunities can lead to collaborations, partnerships, and resource-sharing, which ultimately benefit both educators and their students. 
  1. Professional Development: Conferences provide a platform for educators to stay updated with the latest research, methodologies, and trends in language education. By presenting at conferences, Hebrew language educators can share their experiences, innovative teaching methods, and insights gained from their classrooms.  

MSH: What were your challenges? How did you overcome them? Who helped you brainstorm and prepare? 

Sarit: This was my first time presenting in a conference in English. This being my main challenge I knew I had to be ready and thoroughly prepared. Since all my materials were in Hebrew, I dedicated long weekends to crafting my presentations and materials in English and planning engaging workshops that teachers of other languages would find enjoyable, inspiring, and helpful. I am extremely grateful to Dr. Esty Gross, Chief of Staff and Director of Education at Hebrew at the Center, for her guidance throughout this journey. 

MSH: What are the implications for you as a Hebrew leader? 

Sarit: So many! Presenting at a World Language conference can be a source of inspiration and motivation for Hebrew educators. Sharing successful teaching strategies, student achievements, or innovative projects can energize educators and reaffirm their commitment to excellence in Hebrew language education.  

Professional Growth: Engaging in conference presentations and participation offers a platform for personal and professional growth and provides opportunities to refine presentation skills, enhance public speaking abilities, and receive constructive feedback 

Leadership Development: Presenting at a language conference showcases leadership within the Hebrew education community. It demonstrates initiative, expertise, and a commitment to advancing the field. By sharing innovative teaching methods, successful strategies, and unique insights, one can inspire and influence peers, thereby assuming a leadership role in shaping the direction of Hebrew language instruction. 

Networking and Collaboration: Participation in World Language conferences facilitates networking and collaboration opportunities. Building connections with like-minded individuals enables the exchange of ideas, resources, and best practices. Collaborative endeavors may emerge, leading to joint curriculum development initiatives.  

Through this conference I met Joshua Cabral from the . I was extremely honored that the conference keynote participated in my workshop. Joshua invited me to participate in his successful podcast about Authentic Reading in the Target Language. 

Advocacy and Visibility: Presenting at a world language conference serves as a form of advocacy for Hebrew language education. It raises awareness of the importance, relevance, and value of Hebrew as a language of study. By showcasing innovative approaches, successful outcomes, and student achievements, one can promote the growth and sustainability of Hebrew language programs within educational institutions and broader communities. 

Affirmation: Hearing positive feedback and engaging in discussions with colleagues can reignite passion for teaching and invigorate the teaching and learning process at your school. 

MSH: What are the implications of your presentations for Hebrew teaching and learning at The Leffell School? 

Sarit: Presenting at a conference elevates the profile of Hebrew teaching within the school community. It validates the importance of Hebrew language instruction and highlights the expertise of educators involved in teaching Hebrew. This recognition can foster a sense of pride among students, parents, and colleagues, reinforcing the value of Hebrew language learning.  

MSH: How has this experience changed your thoughts about Hebrew teaching and learning across the field?  

Sarit: After attending and presenting at the NYSAIS World Language Conference, noticing how much we educators can learn from each other, I’m initiating a Hebrew teachers’ conference Shiur Ivrit – the collaborative conference. I am calling all Hebrew teachers and leaders in the New York Metropolitan Area to present and/or participate in our conference that will take place, in person, on Sunday, April 7th, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at The Leffell School Upper School Campus. This is a unique opportunity to learn from each other and build connections. 

I hope that my experience as a presenter at the NYSAIS World Language Conference will inspire others to attend and present at World Language conferences outside of our Hebrew language community. Just as NYSAIS hosts world language conferences, so do Associations of Independent Schools in other states and geographic regions. Each state also hosts similar conferences for World Language teachers in public schools. 

I also hope that Leffell’s Shiur Ivrit Collaborative Conference, co-sponsored by Hebrew at the Center, will encourage other Hebrew leaders in other locations to host their own regional conferences. Engaging in conference presentations encourages educators to stay updated with the latest trends, research, and best practices in Hebrew language instruction.  It provides an opportunity for teachers to refine their pedagogical skills, explore innovative teaching methods, and incorporate new approaches into their classrooms. Ultimately, the main beneficiaries are our Hebrew language students. 

MSH: Todah Rabbah, Sarit. Looking forward to seeing you at Shiur Ivrit on April 7th. 

Educator Spotlight: Nily Katriel spoke, pantomimed, and loved her way into the hearts and minds of her students at Temple Beth Am

Nily is a veteran Hebrew and Judaic Studies teacher at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Florida, in both the religious school and the Rambam Day School. A native of Tel Aviv, veteran of the IDF, and graduate of Beit Levinsky (Elementary Education) and Tel Aviv University (BA in Bible and Art), Nily’s career in Hebrew language education began in Venezuela in the 1970’s. Nily’s husband was sent on Shlichut by his employer, Solel Boneh, to Caracas, where Nily put all of her talents as a teacher, artist, and student of TaNacH to good use. Arriving with no Spanish language background to a community where no one spoke English, Hebrew was the common language between Nily and her students. She had been warned that without Spanish, she would fail, but the school needed a teacher and Nily needed a job, so both took a chance on each other.

Nily set out to speak, pantomime, and love her way into the hearts and minds of her Venezuelan-Jewish students, a group of students she will never forget and who never forgot her. Until this day, Nily corresponds with many of her first students, who are now in their forties and parents of their own adolescent children, and those correspondences continue to flow in written and spoken Hebrew.

Due to political turmoil, most of the Venezuelan Jewish community has since disbursed. Nily’s students relocated to other destinations in the Western Hemisphere and in Israel. After 14 years of living and working in Caracas, Nily’s family moved to Miami in 1989, and ever since, Nily’s career has continued to flourish at Temple Beth Am.

One turning point and highlight of Nily’s career was spending a summer studying Hebrew language acquisition and teaching at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s School of Education, in a cohort of teachers that gathered from all over Latin America. Professor Shlomo Haramaty became Nily’s Hebrew language hero, and his methodology grabbed and captured her heart. Based on Haramaty’s system of language acquisition, Nily wrote a textbook, בלון של צבעים,, that became the foundation of her Hebrew language teaching for years to come. With persistence, the book was finally published in 2015. It’s charming stories are timeless and introduce a wealth of vocabulary and grammatical structures that lend themselves to Hebrew language proficiency. Beginning with simple line illustrations and two-word sentences, the characters develop, vocabulary grows, sentences become longer, and students learn to read and speak Hebrew. Nily resisted creating a “workbook” to accompany the text. She always preferred teaching from self-made materials that she created for her students, and strongly believes that each teacher needs to do the same, based on the needs of their students at each particular moment in history.

Nily Katriel is one of the thousands of heroic Israeli teachers whose partners’ careers led them to successful Hebrew language teaching careers in the Diaspora. Nily has dedicated her entire adult life to sharing her love of Torah, Israel, Hebrew and Israeli culture, and Hebrew language with Jewish children in Caracas and Miami. Today, Nily is proud to call her beloved daughter, Shelly Rauchwerger, a respected and valued colleague at Rambam Day School Temple Beth Am. When asked for advice for young Israelis beginning careers as Hebrew teachers in the Diaspora, Nily said, “teach with love, love, and more love.”