Launched three years ago, Ma’ayanot’s Alumnae College Fellowship Program was designed to afford alumnae who have an interest in formal and/or informal Jewish education the chance to work with Ma’ayanot students and teachers to gain valuable classroom experience and to hone programming skills. This year three Ma’ayanot alumnae, Layla Blenden (’11), Racheli Ambinder (’12), and Kayla Gottlieb (’12), are participating in the program.
Each fellow works at Ma’ayanot two Fridays per month, attends and helps plan the annual school-wide Shabbaton and two grade Shabbatonim, and attends mishmar programming throughout the course of the year. In addition to sitting in on Friday classes and helping students with chavruta work, this year’s Fellows have decided to run programming during breakfast centered around the theme of relationships; the first three such programs were on “Relationships with Family,” “Relationships with Am Yisrael and Klal Yisrael,” and “Relationships with Tefila.” The Fellows are also initiating tefila chaburot (small learning groups) “for students interested in enhancing their tefila experiences.”
Ms. Blenden, who is a second-year Fellow, explained that she returned for a second year because she believes that she received excellent teaching experience last year, and since she plans on becoming a high school Tanakh teacher, she is excited about having similar teaching opportunities again this year. Indeed, Ms. Blenden maximized her teaching opportunities last year, going above and beyond her Fellowship responsibilities by establishing a Wednesday weekly learning chaburah with a group of then-sophomores who wanted to learn more about the topic of tzniut (modesty).
When the first year Fellows were asked why they joined the program, both Ms. Ambinder and Ms. Gottlieb explained that they became Fellows because they “wanted to give back to Ma’ayanot,” and also because they want to remain connected to the school that they love. Ms. Ambinder also commented that because she benefited greatly from her relationships with various madrichot as a teen, she is excited at the prospect of being a role model to Ma’ayanot students.
All three Fellows became animated when asked what it feels like to interact with their former teachers as almost-peers rather than as students. Ms. Blenden commented that she especially enjoys speaking with teachers about their teaching methods. Ms. Ambinder echoed this sentiment and explained that interacting with the teachers as a Fellow has allowed her to realize how “thoughtful and passionate Ma’ayanot teachers are.” Ms. Gottlieb noted that “it is really cool to feel like I am a partner with my former teachers in the common cause of working toward the betterment of the school.”
In describing what she has enjoyed most about her Fellowship experiences thus far, Ms. Gottlieb commented: “I love how much faith and potential Ma’ayanot sees in us. They leave it to us to decide what we want to do and where we want to take this Fellowship. They rely on us to bring our own selves and our own flavors to create programming for the students. This is the same faith they had in us when we were students; they are still teaching us to bring our full selves into whatever we do.”
Lesson well learned.