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Teachers Tapped to Study in Israel

February 8, 2007 By:
Ryan Teitman
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Teaching is a journey of sorts, and for two educators at Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia in Ardmore, at least a leg of that journey will become a reality, as they travel to Israel to learn new ways to challenge their students.

An invitation from Israel's Society for Excellence Through Education will allow the teachers to attend a weeklong conference, beginning Feb. 14, as part of Excellence 2000, a program that examines how to encourage student critical-thinking skills.

Science teacher Kim Ragozzino and math teacher Shoshana Kott will have the opportunity to attend teacher-training workshops at the Society's Chais Teacher Institute in Jerusalem.

Excellence 2000 is designed to spur students' abilities in mathematics and science, and has been in practice at Torah Academy for a year already.

'Their Own Thinking'

The program puts an emphasis on problem-solving skills in math and experimental learning in science classes, said Jennifer Mullen-Haaz, a math teacher at Torah Academy who has been utilizing Excellence 2000 lessons.

For 45 minutes per week, students get to take part in group-based activities that let them flex their creative muscles.

Specifically, science classes undertake experiments dealing with rocketry, chromatography and crime-scene investigations, while math classes focus on geometric progressions, probability and statistics.

"It requires the kids to do their own thinking," said Kott, who will gain even more experience in the program during the conference in Israel.

In one of her recent classes on the Fibonacci Sequence, the program's more independent approach shone through for the students: "It leads them through a series of questions," and lets the students uncover the heart of mathematical principles through their own investigations.

She noted that students also get to shine in more real-world situations. The science classes place a special emphasis on interpreting data and applying other practical skills that the students will eventually face.

Part of the goal is to tap into Israel's success in educating people in computer skills and problem-solving, said Mullen-Haaz. "Those are the issues that are going to be crucial in the next 100 years."

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