Teacher Training for Small Communities in Latin America
Name of implementing organization:Hebraica, Mexico
Date of initial project approval:February 2005
Date of project renewal:November 2008
Brief description of the local Jewish community
The Jewish population of Mexico City numbers approximately 40,000. It is estimated that 15,000 Jews live in other areas covered by this program (500 in Monterrey; 500 in Guadalajara; 8,000 in Panama; 5,000 in Colombia; and 1,000 in Guatemala).
There are 15 Jewish day schools in Mexico City; 2 in Venezuela; and 4 in Colombia. In the big cities there are synagogues, community centers, mikvaot, and the other services needed for Jewish life. Mexico and Panama are strengthening their communities. Venezuela is in a transition because of the current political regime.
Project aims and objectives
To train Jewish teachers for small Latin American communities and to raise professional standards for Jewish teachers there; and to create a network of Jewish educators.
This project is implementing a teacher training program for Jewish teachers from small communities in northern Latin America. The program of studies includes: intensive seminars in Mexico with experts from Israel; distance learning; intensive seminars in Israel; and supervised practicum experience. The program is intended for teachers currently employed in Jewish schools, and for those interested in joining the Jewish education system.
The program is comprised of 3 one-year module units. The first year module dealt with the teaching of the Bible and Jewish sources. Year 2 included Jewish History, Contemporary Jewry, and Israel. The third year deals with Hebrew Language. The practicum experience is comprised of participants implementing a unit or a strategy for the teaching of Hebrew. They also take part in a monthly meeting in Mexico City to share experiences. Mexico City participants are observed in their classrooms and given feedback. Those outside of Mexico City participate in a monthly chat. There also is online consultation.
During the first two years of the project, the Melton Center at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem served as the academic partner of Hebraica University. In the project renewal, the Hebrew University's NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education becomes the new academic partner of Hebraica University.
The project extension focuses on Hebrew Language instruction. It includes two 3-week seminars in Mexico (each comprised of 90 hours of instruction), and a 3-week seminar in Israel (comprised of 160 hours of instruction). There also are 45 hours of distance learning courses on Methods and Approaches to Hebrew Language Instruction, and Development and Assessment of Instructional Materials. Participating teachers who successfully complete all the requirements of the program will receive a Certificate in Instruction in Hebrew from Hebraica University.
An Israel Coordinator for the project works together with a local coordinator to oversee educational and operative aspects of the project. The local coordinator is in charge of the practicum experience, and works together with JAFI representatives and local communities to recruit project participants. An evaluation of the project includes interviews with participants at several points throughout the year, and an evaluation of their performance as teachers.
Main budget elements
Services provided by the Melton Center, including: 4 long-distance learning academic programs; the seminar in Israel; and academic coordination of the program
the seminar in Mexico
Local coordination of the program
The project's successes
- All the planned components of the project were implemented.
- Participants were highly motivated, and high educational standards were developed.
- There was excellent institutional collaboration between the University Hebraica, the Melton Center, and the JAFI Education Department.
- The institutions which sent participants are committed to the project.
Difficulties encountered along the way
Recruitment was more difficult than expected. The small communities in many cases have an “urgent” and short-term way of dealing with their teacher shortage and don’t plan ahead. In some communities, control systems implemented by the local Rabbi do not permit our students to teach Bible in the communal school.