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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I started my I.T. career as a computer teacher at a Solomon Schechter in Brooklyn, NY. Twenty years ago, I.T. directors at schools were math teachers or stay-at-home moms or dads who would come to the computer room, open the doors and the students would play games. With dial-up being the only internet option back then, internet was something we heard about but didn’t use. Most schools saw computers as a waste of time, or for gaming.

Luckily, I was blessed to find PowerPoint as a segue to showing students fun things to do with a PC. Then on to Word, Excel and MS paint. Then the internet got faster and we taught Yahoo search and web design, and the rest is history. Now, most students, by high school, are well versed with G-Suite and may never use Microsoft products—not least my own children.

The I.T. directors back then repaired PCs, taught classes, and managed the website and the office PCs all at the same time. At the time, I was taking my Microsoft, Cisco and Citrix certifications, and through my mother’s taking a card from a VP client, I had a brutal interview and some luck. I was hired as an engineer at MCI Worldcom, which subsequently became Verizon Business.

Though I was blessed to be an engineer at Verizon, I did miss teaching and the students.

After some soul searching and support from my family, I made the bold move of starting The Garb Consulting I.T. Group. Little did I know that I would be managing schools’ I.T. among the other clients GCG IT maintains. I was never too far from the schools.

Fast forward 20 years. I have the distinct honor of being asked to come back into the classroom at Ben Porat Yosef. My official supervisor is the I.T. Director, Moshe Azizollahoff, who is a former protege of mine. His assistant, David Storfer, worked for GCG for a short time. Talk about pride: Moshe is outstanding at his job. David helps me in the classroom with handing out 20 iPads, printing and helping the students log in. There was a need for a 3D printer instructor who can manage the complex steps of 3D printing and had some teaching background. BPY has some outstanding first-grade teachers I get to work with every week. (They even tolerate my bad jokes and hyper mood of teaching!)

The 3D software I am teaching is Maker’s Empire, which was founded by an Australian father who was trying to teach his child 3D printing. With little to no resources, he founded Maker’s Empire. The software has lesson plans based on many state standards with many modules to choose from. Maker’s Empire can be used to teach science, math and even art, K-12.

The 3D-printing course was not as challenging as the grade level I was given—first graders! Some may know how to switch the keyboard to numbers; some may not. One student asked to find the P on the keyboard. However, their enthusiasm and absolute thirst for knowledge is awesome to see. They blaze through the challenging 3D lesson plans. The software has the “Maker’s twins” who reward the students based on their personal growth with coins. The coins will unlock 3D designs.

My teaching style with first graders is more relaxed than with other subjects. I am teaching more of a speciality for now. 3D printing encompasses design, art, keyboarding, inputting passwords and other important skills children may need to learn.

After my first three weeks the students started calling me the 3D printer guy. For now Maker’s Empire and using one’s fingers is better than the other tablet devices. I joke that the students need to remember to bring all 10 fingers. That usually gets five kids joking they only brought seven or eight fingers that day.

Seeing the students faces when the IT team at BPY brings the 3D prints to the classroom is just something I can’t describe. The best part is while walking in the hallway with the huge iPad cart, some eighth graders ask who made that. I point to the first graders, who grin ear to ear.

Though I am only able to teach for about three hours a week, I am finding myself looking forward to teaching the students.

What I have to mention is I am blessed to walk the halls as the MSP of Yeshivat He’Atid, WTA, YBH, and now BPY. The same would go for RYNJ and TABC, which my children attend. The teachers are all dedicated, striving to learn their craft better, day in and day out. Teachers who may be parents themselves need to put on a smile every day. Even if they aren’t feeling well or need to do something personal, teachers can’t really take a day off. My second week I got stuck in traffic and was freaking out that I would be late.

Every parent may feel they know better or sees their complaints as valid, but before you send an email or a call a child’s teacher, remember these people are our neighbors, moms, dads, husbands and wives. Treat teachers with the respect they deserve. Without them, where would our children be?

My column this week, as I discussed with the editor, was supposed to be about professionals getting back into the classroom. I am not saying that everyone has to take a day off to do this. But, if you have a skill or hobby and the school is open and can accommodate a professional coming back into the classroom, I highly recommend it. I am not a fan of the statement that those who can’t do, teach. At many of the schools whose I.T. I am blessed to manage, many of the teachers are professors, pulpit rabbis, artists and even hold MBAs. I am biased and see teaching as one of the hardest jobs out there with little reward.

For those teachers who may not reap the benefits of their hard work today, wait a couple of years. You may walk into a random grocery store in Fair Lawn and a Chassidishe manager remembers you by name from third grade at Satmar Yeshiva (true story).

I was in a water park with my 12-year-old this past week for yeshiva break. A parent ran over with their daughter, who is in my class at BPY. Nothing more rewarding than that.

At the time of this column we are about to end yeshiva break week. Though we love our children and spending time with them is precious, in many yeshivas, the students may spend more time in school than with their families. We share the growth of our children with their amazing educators.

My apologies to any school I left out. My biggest brag is about Teaneck, where I love living. You can throw a stone and hit a fantastic school. All of them are outstanding and I would send my children to any of them proudly. Though I am almost finished with my journey through elementary and high schools. With one in seminary, and one TABC senior, my little one still has some years where I can enjoy her education and educators.

Thank you teachers, administrators and rabbis for doing the amazing job you do.

Sincerely, a thankful parent and very part-time teacher.

By Shneur Garb

 Shneur Garb is the CEO and Engineer of the Garb I.T. Group in Teaneck. Shneur leads seminars and tech workshops. Comments can be sent to [email protected]