Education looks bright with Masa Israel teaching fellows – opinion

In the past 18 months, the pandemic has thrown the Israeli educational system into a crisis. With the new Israeli school year in just a few months, there is no shortage of work to do to get the children up to speed.

Recognizing the setbacks and shortage of English teachers in Israel’s education system, the Ministry of Education supports programs that improve educational resources in conjunction with the Jewish Agency. Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) exemplifies this initiative.

Through communicative lessons and conversation exercises, many Israeli children gain confidence in their English skills and build connections that strengthen their connection with Jews abroad. One of the biggest benefits of having young fellows from abroad join Israeli classrooms is the positive experience they bring to learning. Unlike traditional teaching and exam taking, fellows are encouraged to create lesson plans and activities that students can relate to and enjoy. Now 160 fellows are in Israel, embarking on their 10-month adventure as they work to build bridges with Israeli youth. .

MITF is one of Masa’s most successful programs with a variety of opportunities. Many fellows come with teaching certificates from their English-speaking home countries and many have already taught abroad elsewhere. MITF even offers unique tracks such as the combination of STEM and English for graduate fellows of STEM university programs. Since educational obstacles hit disadvantaged schools the hardest, fellows often teach in Israel’s socioeconomic periphery, providing a lifeline for children who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn English with native speakers. From major cities to youth villages, fellows join their new communities with open hearts.

As a mother living in Israel, I can attest to how essential these skills are to future career prospects. I also know how challenging learning English can be. I was once a student in Israel and I can remember how difficult it was to master the foreign language. Some Israeli families are lucky enough to be able to invest in private English lessons, but most cannot afford the expense. By offering their expertise in English, Fellows provide a vital service that will support Israel’s workforce, economy, and future generations, all while leveling the playing field, so that all children can excel.

Our fellows also gain real-world experience in classroom management, creative problem solving, and interpersonal communications, all skills that can be applied to a variety of professions. Many of our 1,700 MITF alumni have excelled in fields such as law, medicine, education, and business. Two of them even decided to market the delicious hummus and tahini that they came to love in Israel!

Above all, our fellows and alumni testify that teaching in Israel has led them to feel a developing affiliation with their heritage and homeland. Their service builds a bridge between the Israeli and global Jewish communities, proving that the Jewish nation can do amazing things when we come together.

As the director of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, I have been privileged to be on the front row in many magical moments of learning, connection, growth, and incredible impact.

Over the past decade, our fellows have taught basic English skills to 300,000 Israeli students in 19 cities. But the story behind the numbers is much more compelling. I have witnessed how the children in Beit She’an enthusiastically practice their English while chatting with their MITF fellows at a local Mimouna celebration; Sheery, a sixth grader at Bat Yam, finally felt safe to share her thoughts in English during a class discussion; and Nitzan, a high school student from a northern Israeli city, who discovered American Jewish culture, enriching his own life in the process.

I remember the fellows who met best friends and partners during their time in Israel and those so inspired by their experience at MITF that they decided to make community service their life mission.

These moments serve to inspire me through the difficult times we live in. As we recover from a global pandemic, rocket attacks on our borders, and civil unrest, it is encouraging to know that compassion and connection flow between Israel and global Jewish communities. This year is full of opportunities and I am proud that Masa Israel teaching fellows are leading the way.

Yael Sahar Rubinstein is the director of the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows and lives in Israel.

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