Rubin Pilot Learning Initiative ends first year

Rubin Pilot Learning Initiative ends first year

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy is very proud of its child-center philosophy and ability to provide a variety of different learning styles tailored to the needs of each student. However, as the school matured and included more students with different learning styles, they realized they didn’t have the resources to meet their needs. Though they offered information on resources outside the school setting to parents of students with learning challenges, they really wanted to create those opportunities within the school.

“Research shows 15-20 percent of students in schools in the United States learn differently and we see those same numbers reflected in our program,” head of school Marsha Grazman said. “It was important to us to find a way to meet the individual learning needs of each student.”

Grazman met with Rachel Katzman and David Roberts, parents in the community who are concerned about inclusion in Jewish day schools. Katzman provided the money to hire a fundraiser to find the monies for a pilot program. She also hosted parlor meetings to raise awareness and funds. Grazman also looked into grant possibilities.

The school received a generous grant from The Mildred, Herbert and Julian Simon Foundation and support from The Lubin-Green Foundation along with many other donors to run a learning initiative pilot program for three years. The program was named to honor the memory of Rabbi Alvan Rubin. He was a board member of the Simon Foundation, a great support of SMDS-RJA and an early believer in the concept of a Reform Jewish day school for St. Louis.

The pilot program is being coordinated in conjunction with Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of St. Louis. The LDA uses special learning consultants to tutor students after school and was looking for way to bring the process into a school setting. Grazman said they made a “shittach and the whole process was b’shert.”

The learning initiative provides six teacher training opportunities each year which are open to all St. Louis Jewish day schools. Grazman was happy to report teachers and other interested personnel from other day schools have participated in those workshops. There is also a 20-hour-a-week learning specialist who consults with teachers and students in classroom settings.

LDA consultant Ken Cohen started working with the program at the school in January. He has done work with LDA as after school tutor and consultant and previously taught for Special School District for 31 years. He has also served as the past president and director of education of B’nai Torah.

Cohen said everyone at the school has been very open and welcoming about meeting the needs of students that learn differently. He assists students working side-by-side in classrooms with individuals, small groups or co-teaching with classroom teachers and sometimes assists students outside the classroom for remediation. Cohen also helps with gifted students who need to be stretched in a different way.

“It is a neat thing,” Cohen said. “There isn’t a set list of students to work with. We work with any student who is having learning challenges in any subject.”

The school is not looking for a quick fix, said Grazman. Each student learns differently and it is important to train teachers to work with students in a variety of different ways to help each student be the best learners they can be. The program is designed to help every student build on their strengths and achieve their potential.

Grazman is very pleased with the results as the first year of the program comes to a close at the end of this school year. She said there is interest and work being done on how to sustain and expand this model throughout the Jewish day school community.

“We have been able to much better accommodate many different learning styles as a result of the learning initiative,” Grazman said. “It has been a very positive experience for everyone as we are helping all students learn more effectively.”

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