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Meet TBE Congregants who are Teachers! Thank you Teachers!

September is Back to School — honoring our Teachers!

Please read 5 of our teacher stories!
Jane Heyman, Susan Boldry, Eileen Eisenberg, Sandy Ridker, and Emily O'Connor.

Jane Heyman 

Jane Heyman is an accountant by trade but enjoys spending some of her free time teaching Hebrew school. She teaches our Hebrew Through Movement class as well as offers one on one tutoring for children learning Hebrew at Temple.

The Hebrew Through Movement program is a national program that teaches Modern Hebrew by showing the children the words for all different commands. They learn stand, sit, run, jump, turn around as well as lots of vocabulary. They start making connections between modern Hebrew words and prayer book and Jewish life vocabulary. For instance, “Lashevet” is sit and also connected to Shabbat meaning rest.

Jane has taught herself the Hebrew language and continues to grow her knowledge. She loves having fun with our students and seeing them enjoying Hebrew.

A memorable time teaching was when she was doing a session with a fourth grade class and they were working on a Shabbat project. One child expressed that he had not finished yet, but it was time to go to the Hebrew through Movement part of their day.  His teacher gave him the option of skipping the Hebrew through Movement to finish his project, but the boy quickly told the teacher that Hebrew Through Movement was his favorite, and he was not missing it!  He would finish his project at home. Jane was so excited about getting the affirmation that her work was reaching this child.

She wants our community to know how wonderful it is that our students will have the memory of a Hebrew School that they enjoyed!

Susan Boldry

Susan has been a teacher forever, and she is now 71. She has taught French and Spanish in classrooms of elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges. She now does ESL training with immigrants all over the world through zoom.

She knew as a small child that she wanted to be a teacher. She got her PHD at Northwestern in 1991. Her dissertation was on Social Reflections of Quebec Culture. She worked on it from 1985-1991 spending time in Quebec.

The highlight of her career was always learning things that she could bring to the classroom.

Her advice to someone thinking about teaching is to make sure you really love the students, you love to lead, you love to inspire the students and you’ll let them know that they can learn.  Teachers need to believe in their students even when they doubt themselves.

Once, she had a student in class who she was having a tough time reaching (so she thought). He had an unstable life at home and felt terror in home and at school. She worked to help this student. When she was getting ready to pack her home and move back to Illinois, this student got a group together and showed up to help her pack her things for the move. She was so touched that he cared about her, and she knew she had touched him.

Still now at age 71, she is volunteering with a women's program that women can enroll in to learn ESL. Once a week, they Zoom and engage in conversation.  These women are from all over the world including from Ukraine, Poland and Mexico, and they all come together to learn English and succeed in our country. She loves it.

Eileen Eisenberg

Eileen has been retired since 2010. She taught at many different levels and has a Special Education degree. She spent some time teaching in a school classroom, taught in a JCC preschool and eventually ran the Heller JCC Pre School.

She then got her Master’s Degree, and started teaching at the National Louis University.  She taught leadership and integration in the Early Childhood Development program.

She has had so many different experiences in the education field. She loved the National Louis University experience. She also has worked in the city with Directors on their curriculum for teaching special education.  

On her first day at CPS, she was standing behind a young boy.  She dropped something and realized he did not flinch. The boy had been in the school system at CPS for 3 years and no one recognized that he was deaf.   

Her biggest challenge in teaching was when she would go into the city with the intention of helping Directors of programs who were supervising staffs of women all different ages. In order to earn their trust and be on the same page with these teachers, she did everything with them, even cleaning classrooms and moving furniture so that they would warm up to her and accept her suggestions and knowledge.

She believes that education starts at home because parents are educators!  

Emily O'Connor

1. What do you do with children in a school setting?

I'm a middle school social worker and do counseling with 7th and 8th graders

2. Did you always want to work with children in this way? How did you come to this line of work?

I always knew that I wanted to do counseling.  I was the friend in high school who helped everyone with their problems and conflicts.  In grad school, I thought I wanted to do corporate therapeutic support, but then my internship placed me in a lovely elementary school in Skokie and I fell in love working with kids!

3. What are the challenges in schools and in your work?What are the challenges in schools and in your work?

The pandemic definitely impacted kids' academic, social, and behavioral growth, but even before that, there was a big increase in emotional dysregulation.  Kids were really struggling to cope with their feelings and were in need of strategies.  Social media has been a great way for kids to connect and have fun, but it has also been really detrimental when used to spread rumors or be mean.  In the olden days, when you had a bad day at school or someone was teasing you, you could come home and get away from it, but now kids are connected all the time and there isn't that escape.

4. What are your greatest rewards? A little anecdote to share about the joy of teaching?

The greatest rewards are when you see kids using the skills you've taught them and feeling successful!  Situations that used to cause them to have a melt down are now handled by using a coping strategy or they are using their learned social skills to make new friends, or they are applying the executive functioning strategies you've taught and have an organized binder....and they feel that success, can recognize their personal growth, and understand that they aren't stuck but rather can learn strategies and feel better!  I love it when high schoolers come back and share their growth and happiness and connect it to something they learned in middle school.  A quick anecdote.....I was working with a 6th grader who was pretty unmotivated academically and didn't see the reason for school or how doing well in school would benefit him.  We worked hard for 3 years to improved self esteem, coping skills, and academic skills.  In 8th grade, students completed an assignment to reflect back on their middle school years and think about their future.  This student wrote about his goal to finish high school and become a carpenter and he credited his father, me, and his special education teacher for never giving up on him even when he didn't think he could do it.

5. What do you want our community to know about teachers and school professionals these days? 

We do it ALL.  School is about so much more than academics.  We are working to build connections with students and help them learn social emotional behavioral skills so they can function well in our society.


Sandy Ridker, VP of Education at Temple Beth-El

Sandy knew when she was young that she wanted to be a teacher. She grew up in South Shore and Skokie and had a couple of teachers who influenced her to follow this path. When she volunteered in high school working with the special education teachers and students, she knew this is what she wanted to do.      

Her first job was in the Special Education Department in Lake County. She was there for ten years.  She taught children with learning disabilities and then became a Learning Disability Specialist at the alternative school for students with behavior disorders. She also taught at Maple Junior High, Lutheran General Hospital on the in-patient adolescent psychiatric unit, at a private day hospital and at a therapeutic day school with a residential component before deciding to return the public school system. She landed at Warren Township High School in Gurnee where for most of her time there she was Dean of Students.

She wants our community to know how much she loved her career. How rewarding it was to support students to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives.

It was a very rewarding career and she enjoyed the variety of positions she held. 

She is now enjoying her retirement and happy to be on the Board and working with Rabbi Ari and our Temple Beth-El School programs.

Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784