Back-to-school jitters don’t just apply to students, but also to teachers — especially teachers making the switch to new schools.
For Sarit Sade and Audrey Kraus, both Philadelphia-based teachers making their debuts at new (for them, at least) Jewish schools, transitions can be challenging, but equally rewarding.
Sade, 47, will teach Hebrew at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy this year, a departure from teaching young children at Center City Jewish Preschool last year, as well as past years of teaching at Kellman Brown Academy in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, and Perelman Jewish Day School.
“I felt that I need a little bit of a change and a challenge, and [to do] something that I’ve never done before,” Sade said.
Unlike Sade, who has taught in the Philadelphia area for nine years, Kraus and her family packed their lives into boxes and made the trip from Los Angeles to Philadelphia in August.
Though Kraus is leaving her life out west as a general studies teacher for students with learning differences, coming to Philadelphia is a homecoming of sorts.
She will teach fifth graders at Perelman — the same school she attended from fourth-through-sixth grade until 1979, when it was the Solomon Schechter Day School. Having lived in LA for 25 years, she is making her return to Philadelphia to be closer to family.
Though she has taught since 2014, Kraus, 54, didn’t expect to become a teacher; originally she was a disability rights lawyer and focused on special education advocacy.
“I really saw firsthand how students could be impacted by great teachers,” she said.
While volunteering at her children’s school, someone suggested to Kraus that she should apply for a teaching fellowship. She did and completed her teacher training program in 2013.
Sade’s path to becoming a teacher also came unexpectedly. Sade studied interior design in college in Israel and moved to Philadelphia after graduating, and she completed an internship at a design firm in Old City. Shortly afterward, she was offered a position at the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia, which she immediately accepted.
“My first passion ever is my country,” Sade said.
Sometime thereafter, according to Sade, she had an opportunity to teach and hasn’t looked back since.
“I want to be surrounded by kids, and I want to have the opportunity to pass down information and values,” Sade said. “And just be around that creativity and curiosity, and the beauty that kids still possess that’s not yet tainted by life.”
Though the skills of her previous career are probably harder to apply to her lessons than that of Kraus, Sade’s love of her country and her Jewish background drive her passion for teaching.
“The new generation needs to know our past and the story of the Jews throughout history, connecting to our ancestors and the Torah,” Sade said.
Sade’s most important teachers, she said, were her parents, both educators by trade. Her mother was a teacher, and her father, a principal; both of their careers spanned nearly 40 years.
Now that Sade shares the same profession, she has a better understanding of her parents.
“I can see why my parents stayed,” she said. “It truly is worth it.”
Kraus still remembers her sixth-grade teacher at Solomon Schecter, Phyllis Fingerhood, who went on to teach Kraus’ nephews. Fingerhood had a passion for bird watching that she shared with her students and, to this day, Kraus owns the pair of binoculars and field guide she bought that year.
Kraus still appreciates her teacher’s ability to build a classroom community and instill passion in her students. Using the values with which Fingerhood taught, Kraus hopes to continue to connect and truly listen to her students.
“It’s pretty important as a teacher to be mindful of the way you were taught, and also be able to bring innovation and new ideas and really connect to the students who are in front of you,” Kraus said. “Not just teach to your own strengths and what worked for you, but be very aware of what works for your students.”
Despite the threat of another COVID-19 outbreak looming this year, Kraus is ready for her new beginning: “I found that being in a classroom and having my students’ best educational interests in front of me has kept me focused.”
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