Rachel Silton

William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education

Houston, Texas

JTS Degree Program: Master of Arts, Jewish Education, Day School Teaching Concentration, 2013

Current Position: Seventh-Grade Judaics Teacher, Emery/Weiner School, Houston, Texas

What were you doing in the two or three years before you began your studies at JTS? After graduation from Vassar, where I studied Anthropology and Jewish Studies, I became an OTZMA fellow. Through OTZMA, I was able to expand my Hebrew knowledge in an absorption center ulpan, volunteer full-time in a peripheral Israeli community, and intern at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Why did you choose to attend The Davidson School? Students studying at The Davidson School have the unique opportunity to learn with a variety of people from many backgrounds-including fellow education, rabbinical, cantorial, and undergraduate students-which cannot be found at any other professional Jewish institution. This, along with the impressive faculty and strong academic focus of the program, greatly influenced my decision to attend.

What is your current title, what role(s) do you serve, and where? I have had the amazing privilege to teach Tanakh to 65 seventh graders at the Emery/Weiner School in Houston, Texas, as a Judaics teacher, and learn with them during the pivotal b'nai mitzvah year.

Who is the JTS professor or mentor that was formative for you? Please share an anecdote or insight. Dr. Sarah Tauber was able to present elusive and difficult-to-teach material, such as theology and prayer, in such a way that we could explore personal meaning and create innovative ways to teach the subjects in the classroom. A particularly meaningful moment I shared with her was the final exam of Teaching Prayer. Instead of giving a standard exam or research paper, Dr. Tauber allowed her students to plan and facilitate a havdalah learning experience for the entire JTS community that allowed participants to deepen their connection to the havdalah traditions and create strong bonds in our community.

How did your Davidson School education help prepare you for the work you now do? It helps me every day in my work as a Jewish day school educator. The content knowledge that I explored in the Bible, Talmud, and Modern Jewish Studies courses informs every lesson plan I create. The skills I acquired allowed me to jump into my first teaching position confident in my lesson-planning skills, teaching philosophy, and classroom-management capability.

What professional successes have you had? At the end of the second semester, I facilitated a self-designed project for my seventh graders called "The Living Tanakh." My students were assigned specific topics related to Shofetim, Samuel, and Melakhim, and they brought the text and topic to life through a research paper, newspaper, and live presentation. This project was a great success for me in that I was able to see the culmination of my students' learning and know that I was able to facilitate the project effectively and meaningfully.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at JTS? Participating in the Visions and Voices of Israel Seminar. Having the opportunity to participate in a Freedom Ride, visit the innovative Jewish educational learning at TALI schools, and celebrate Shabbat as a cohort has had long-lasting effects on my personal Jewish identity and my teaching philosophy.

Why should a prospective student consider The Davidson School and JTS? Attending The Davidson School will absolutely prepare them for their future work in the Jewish community. It provides both the skills and the knowledge needed for students to achieve their dreams in the world of Jewish education