The DeLeT Pardes collaboration was envisioned as a means of providing the DeLeT Alumni Network, DAN, with the opportunity to hold a national conference and at the same time join in collaboration to learn from and with another teacher preparation program’s alumni. We chose to approach the PEP-Pardes Educators Program- with this idea. Since our program emphasizes the area of pedagogy and teacher leadership and Pardes’ program has a heavy text emphasis, we hoped that we would have some complementary strengths and experience to share.
We also noted that while our alumni are largely teaching in the elementary grades and some few in middle schools and high schools, Pardes’ placements are almost a mirror image of ours. Therefore, each program would be able to enrich the other with a fuller complement of the grade levels that it had fewer of, providing a richer learning experience and network for all grade levels. Since we work toward development of teacher leadership we envisioned an opportunity for alumni from each program to give input and engage in the planning of aspects of the conference. Many alumni mentioned that they appreciated the opportunity to teach and learn with both DeLeT and Pardes educators and valued the importance of problem solving and conferring with colleagues “face-to-face.” The evaluations post-conference noted important outcomes, which illustrate that the conference goals were met:
- “A highlight of the conference was being around DeLeT friends and engaging with other like-minded professionals who share the same language.”
- “I loved participating in the sessions with former DeLeT fellows and was amazed and inspired by what they learned and achieved in their years of teaching so far.”
- “I got recharged and inspired in programmatic ways to improve my practice.”
- “A major highlight of the conference for me was having talks about the DeLeT Alumni Network (DAN) and to realize the power we could have and the resource we could be.”
- “I am newly enthused to be able to take a leadership role among the DeLeT alumni.”
- “Connecting with alumni across the country and different cohorts really broadened by sense of DeLeT as a national movement and that I’m truly part of something bigger.”
- “I appreciated that the face-to-face time just makes it feel “real” in a way that an online community cannot.”
- “The conference got me thinking about the big picture—thinking about my school as a whole and ways I would like to see more of a DeLeT influence/atmosphere in the future.”
- “The conference helped me rethink the role of DeLeT within day schools and within North American Jewish education.”
- “This DeLeT conference was inspiring. It’s by far one of the best professional development conferences I’ve attended.”
Assessment of our First Alumni Partnership Endeavor Of the three goals of partnering with Pardes in a joint conference, it appears that two of the three, a fuller complement of teachers and an opportunity to gain new perspectives and expertise were realized, in some measure, based on comments such as:
- “Meeting others I didn’t know definitely helped me feel much more a part of a larger community.”
- “Seeing so many enthusiastic Jewish educators together was a highlight of the conference for me.”
- “I met with a lot of Pardes alumni who helped teach me basic Mishna concepts. Understanding their knowledge of Mishna was both educational and inspiring. Their amount of textual Jewish knowledge and skill is inspiring to me. I want to go learn at Pardes.”
- “It was really nice to share Shabbat with Pardes. Their presence added more traditional Jewish voices to the Shabbat experience.”
- “I appreciated meeting other teachers teaching higher level Judaic Studies.”
What was clear was that the purpose of being there together needed to have been elaborated and explained more fully to both Pardes and DeLeT alumni. Making the rationale of a joint conference more transparent, a priori, would have helped us to further the integration of the two groups. We felt that more alumni planning time, working on the conference together a priori, would have furthered interaction between the groups, had there been two or three phone meetings. Now that the groups have met one another, there may be more comfort and some relationships that would enable us to collaborate in some endeavors in the future.
Continuing to Build the National DeLeT Alumni Network
The conference provided a positive means to move the DAN’s agenda forward. Our alumni met on Friday to begin discussions around next steps for the DAN. At that time alumni looked over the mission statement that Jamie, Jake, and Sapphira drafted. Alumni were encouraged to ask questions and to make suggestions for the mission statement. Additionally, alumni were presented with the idea of a cohort contact person who would serve each cohort as a liaison between the DAN and their cohort. The idea of regional representatives, DeLeT alumni who would have a role in coordinating regional gatherings to best meet the needs of other DeLeT alumni in each region, was also presented. The goal was for each alumna to sign up for a committee to work with in the coming year, doing meaningful work for the DAN. The outcome of this session was the realization that there were many questions of clarification that needed to be before we could generate ideas for moving forward. The clarifications introduced in Friday’s session gave way to Sunday’s energetic final session. In the interim, a small group of alumni met and drafted a plan for four important areas of focus, a proposed way of structuring our network. Sunday’s session was devoted to proposing the plans for a new network structure. Each alumna chose one of the four areas to work on. Collaboratively, within these four groups, each group developed goals and next steps for the coming year. The four areas to structure the network, described briefly below, are:
- Creating Community/Providing Support around Individuals- Those working in this area will focus on ways in which to best support novice teachers and job seekers, and also on ways of continuing to create community for our alumni group.
- Public Awareness/ Branding/Profile- Those working in this area will consider how to educate day schools about what DeLeT is.
- Professional Development- Those working in this area will create opportunities for relevant professional development for our alumni. This could mean monthly webinars and/or regional guest speakers.
- Advocacy for Teachers- This group’s focus is on improving the quality of day school teachers’ professional lives. Leadership opportunities to present at conferences may be one means of gaining support.
The DAN website will continue to be the forum for the implementation and collaboration of these groups’ work and is being re-designed to address the needs the alumni voiced at the conference. Excerpts of sessions from the conference can be accessed here.
Conclusion The DAN continues to be a vibrant network, as evidenced by the ongoing involvement of twenty-five alumni who have already stepped forward to assume responsibilities within its ranks. Alumni indicated that they look to the DAN to connect them with resources, support and a broad network of educators. We continue to provide leadership opportunities and to extend support and resources to veteran alumni and novice teachers alike. We will continue to work toward achieving our mission as we reach out to build partnerships with other teacher education programs and organizations.