We are often asked (by potential parents or community members or even our own board members) if we are a Jewish day school. And we just don’t know how to answer that.
On the one hand, we are a school that is proudly based in Jewish values and culture. We start each morning with an element of prayer. We build study of Jewish text into our program. We foster a connection to Israel. We teach Hebrew.
On the other hand, we do it all with an Einstein twist. Our focus on Jewish values and culture involves connecting students through a thematic approach to drive action. Our prayer component is based on mindfulness and cultivation of emotional dispositions like gratitude and awe. Our study of Jewish text is integrated with science and social studies and art in an interdisciplinary problem-solving block. Our connection to Israel emphasizes the State as a start-up nation, full of problem solvers and entrepreneurs. Our Hebrew program will one day be optional as we hope to offer Spanish at some point.
It seems to be a generally accepted fact that Jewish education (including Jewish day schools) is about 10-15 years behind secular education in terms of applying research and working to support what is known about how kids learn. But we are right at the forefront. We are deeply committed to integrating all of the most recent educational research and weaving it together with our combined 55+ years of experience in education to create a constantly evolving, student-driven approach to learning.
We meet as a faculty to address topics such as what excellence in teaching looks like, how to differentiate for students of various interest and ability levels, and what does it mean to hold classes in a multi-age classroom? We look at data and articles and constantly consider how to apply it all today and tomorrow, not 10-15 years from now.
We spend a significant amount of time and energy considering how we can provide the best possible learning environment for our students and support our families as well. We think about creating problem seekers and problem solvers in our community and our world so that our students feel empowered to make an impact today and not have to wait until they are older.
And being “Jewish” is at the center of all of this. We don’t stop there, however; it drives us to engage in all of these areas and continue improving.
Now, no school can be everything to everyone. We readily admit that our facility is not the main draw of our school, for example. We are based in an old church building that has slowly been renovated over the past few years, but still features portable cooling units instead of central air.
We don’t have a gym or a library or music room. We do have garden boxes and bee hives and outdoor classroom space and a huge park and lots of different flexible seating options for students to choose where they learn best.
We don’t have a technology lab or makerspace. We do have accessible technology available to expand the role of the classroom and materials throughout the building to foster students’ creativity and problem-solving skills.
We don’t have a gifted program or a learning resource center. We do have a really low student to teacher level, the ability to give each student a personalized learning profile, and the space to differentiate for every single student who walks through our door.
So when asked if we are a Jewish day school, we answer that we are an exceptional school that happens to be based on Jewish values and culture. We place a strong emphasis on academic learning AND social emotional growth. We believe in the integration of Jewish values and culture AND in having a strong secular academic program. We believe in being a place where students love to come every day AND families feel like part of the community.
For us, the easiest way to answer is that we’re not a Jewish day school, we are Einstein Academy, and the best way to truly understand what that means is to experience it for yourself.