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The NEXT Program’s Boot Camp for New Teachers (and those with minimal formal training)


By Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Director

Too many new (and new-ish) supplementary school teachers wake up in the middle of the night worrying about setting up a classroom, planning for the first day, organizing lessons, using textbooks and keeping everything engaging. These dedicated teachers invest time and energy in their classes every week. Unfortunately, some lack formal training in education and working with children. We can remedy that by providing effective and targeted professional learning opportunities for them. Whatever support the Jewish community gives these teachers, the impact on children in supplementary schools will be tenfold.

If the first step to becoming an excellent supplementary school teacher is that enthusiasm and dedication, the NEXT step is surely substantive professional learning. Gratz College’s NEXT program is designed to fulfill that role. The content of our on campus and online professional learning classes includes ongoing education about pedagogical practices, Jewish content, ones’ own Jewish identity, and the needs and desires of ones’ students.

The NEXT Program’s Boot Camp for New Teachers (and those with minimal formal training) is a class specifically designed to address the challenges of supplementary school teachers without a formal background in education. The Boot Camp is a self-paced online class that we now offer year-round for supplementary school teachers. The class features 8 two hour modules on topics including: child development; multiple intelligences; special needs; instructional learning strategies, classroom management and kehillah (community) building. Syllabus, unit and lesson planning are covered in depth. In the fall, the Boot Camp will be expanded to include a module on higher order thinking and questioning and discussion skills. Participants are invited to join an online Community of Practice following the course.

The NEXT program is funded by the generosity of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. All NEXT classes are free to teachers in Philadelphia, but teachers everywhere are welcome to take the classes for a modest fee. The Boot Camp tuition is $150. The need for high quality professional learning online is growing and NEXT’s response has been heard so loudly and clearly that central agencies and federations in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Miami, Milwaukee and the Greater Palm Beaches are now partnering with us to bring our online classes to teachers in those areas at subsidized rates.

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