If you are a teacher at Talmud Torah School, you face challenges that others in your profession in Edmonton may not easily connect with. Talmud Torah is the only public school in the city that offers Jewish education and teaching Hebrew. When Bianna Kuskin had a chance to meet and network with teachers in northern Israel this past summer, she jumped at the chance.
Bianna teaches math, art, and Hebrew to multiple grades at Talmud Torah. She’s also working on a Hebrew resource for teachers and students in kindergarten.
“When you are teaching at Talmud Torah, it’s a very different structure than other schools in Edmonton Public Schools because of the language, learning, and the cultural component of it. You are in a bubble,” says Bianna.
She was able to break out of this bubble when she attended the Canada – Galilee School Connections Program hosted by the Coast to Coast Partnerships2Gether (P2G) and Etzbah Ha Galilee for four days in July. The Jewish Federation of Edmonton subsidized this trip for Bianna out of its P2G fund.The goal of this educators’ conference is to deepen the sense of belonging to the Jewish people on a personal, interpersonal, and community level. It aims to create meaningful relationships between Jewish schools in Canada and schools in northern Galilee.
“I had a chance to speak with other teachers who are teaching similar subjects in a professional capacity. It was also wonderful to see the beautiful projects they offer children in northern Israel. One of my favourite highlights was meeting a Jamaican artist who paints with bleach. He introduced us to his work and his life story. It was very interesting,” says Bianna.
She also met another teacher and they have decided to have their students collaborate through art. They are planning on creating Rosh Hashanah cards and students will send their creations to their counterparts.
Although Bianna is originally from Israel, the program provided her an opportunity to build relationships in Jewish Edmonton’s partner region and to introduce her to new ideas that she could bring back to the classroom.
“We had a chance to see all the great projects that the Israelis in the north can create and develop because of the support of the Federation. The youth are involved in these projects and they are managing to keep them off the streets. They are doing beautiful work such as becoming entrepreneurs at a very young age and learning skills of how to stand in front of an audience,” she says.
Bianna explains that this program and the partnership is important for schools, students, and teachers as everyone involved is learning about each other’s culture and languages.
“I’m very thankful for having this chance to go, visit, and make connections with the people and teachers there. It brought up lots of memories from when I was a teacher in Israel and seeing how the education system has changed. All the staff and the people who hosted us were so nice and welcoming,” she says.