Epstein teacher wins national award


At the annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly meeting last week in Nashville, one local teacher enjoyed a moment in the spotlight, as she was recognized for work in Jewish education.

Roz Hirschhorn, a first grade teacher at H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, was one of 76 educators from around the continent honored for excellence in Jewish education.

Hirschhorn received the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education from the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA).

The annual award seeks to “recognize teachers in communities throughout North America who have made a commitment to the field of Jewish education,” according to JESNA.


Hirschhorn has received a number of kudos this year: In May, she was named the Stuart I. Raskas Teacher of the Year by the Central Agency for Jewish Education of St. Louis. In addition, Hirschhorn was selected by the Independent Schools of St. Louis organization as an ISSL Teacher of Distinction.

Hirschhorn, or “Morah Roz,” as she is known by her students, is in her 26th year of teaching, and her 15th year of teaching at Epstein. She said that being honored by JESNA was “a big honor.”

Hirschhorn said that attending the UJC General Assembly was an experience in itself.

“It was an amazing, emotional experience,” she said. “One moment I will always remember is hearing 3,500 voices coming together, singing Hatikvah together. It was a very emotional experience.”

A special treat, though, was seeing two of her classmates from the high school she attended in Winnepeg, Canada. Coincidentally, all three became Jewish educators and were receiving the same awards from JESNA at the same time.

“It was kind of like a mini-reunion, ” said Hirschhorn with a laugh.

At Epstein, Hirschhorn said she works with an ‘integrated curriculum’ that weaves back and forth between English and Hebrew and general and Judaic studies.

“It’s wonderful working between the two because they can have the same teacher all day, and move between languages and subjects. For many of the children, this is the year that they first learn to really read well, and by the end of the year they leave reading in both English and Hebrew, ” she said.

“Also, first grade is when we hold the siddur ceremony and pass out their siddurim. It’s a marvelous time to watch them grow and learn, ” she said.

The Grinspoon-Steinhardt award provides award winners with a minimum stipend of $2,500. Nominees for the award are submitted by their local Central Agency for Jewish Education or their local Federation.

Rabbi Shmuel Kay, head of school at Epstein, said Hirshhorn is well loved by her students, and an exemplary teacher.

“Being a certified general studies teacher and an experienced Judaic teacher is something very unique and it gives us the opportunity to integrate both subjects, ” he said. “We are very blessed to be able to do that, ” Kay said.

“This honor is considered very prestigious, ” he said. “Only the best teachers from around the country get this award, so we are all very proud of her, ” Kay said.