7th grade teacher spotlight

Shule Teacher Spotlight: Meet Sarah!

Welcome to our new series: Shule Teacher Spotlight!  Throughout the year, we’ll interview as many of our Shule teachers as we can so the whole community can get to know them a little better.  

Meet Sarah O’Connor: Sarah (She/Hers)  Sarah is the current Zayen (7th) grade teacher and a former Alef (1st) grade teacher. She is also on the board.

BWC: How did you find BWC? 

Sarah: I was working in a school back in 2013 where I met Pauli Katz (another Shule teacher and lifelong BWC member) and the Shule music teacher at the time who both just happened to be working there – that’s how I first got connected! They recruited me to teach the Alef (1st grade) class the next year. I did that for a couple of years, then took a long break from Shule while serving on the BWC board and being involved with the young adult and Israel/Palestine committees, and I am delighted to be back this year as the Zayen teacher. 

BWC: Why do you like teaching Shule? 

Sarah: I teach Shule because I get to spend my Sunday mornings with a group of cool, curious, and critically engaged 7th graders who are coming into their own individual, Jewish, and political identities. I’m inspired by both their strong moral convictions and their openness to new ideas. It’s an honor to be part of their final year of Shule and preparation for our community’s b’nai mitzvah ritual. 

BWC: What are your favorite parts of the Shule curriculum? 

Sarah: My favorite part of the 7th grade curriculum is the individual projects in which students explore a topic of their choosing that connects to their Jewish identity. This year we’ve got projects on Jewish violin composers, magicians, dancers, and baseball players, Jews in commercial aviation, Jewish food and cooking, family history, and representations of stereotypes in the media. I can’t wait to see how this class connects their unique and niche interests to some of the bigger themes we’ve learned about this year related to belonging to Jewish community, individual relationship to Jewish identity and tradition, and being Jewish in a predominantly non-Jewish society. 

BWC: What are some of the big questions addressed in the Zayen (7th grade) curriculum? 

Sarah: Some of the big questions are: What does it mean to be Jewish in the U.S. today? What does it mean to be a secular Jew in the diaspora? What do these identities mean to you personally? Last week we had a panel featuring guest speakers of different faith backgrounds, and I’m really looking forward to our next session on building interfaith solidarity. 

This year is also about preparing to mark a transition as they graduate from Shule in the spring and become more independently responsible for their relationship to the BWC as a community and organization. A lot of our curriculum is focused on learning about different forms of Jewish identity and practice to help students grapple with the question of “Who am I Jewishly?” Students have interviewed relatives about their Jewish identity, learned about Jewish movements and denominations, and taken on roles in our communal ritual observances like High Holiday services and the Shule Khanike party. 

BWC: What feels possible in this curriculum? 

Sarah: My hope for the Zayen class this year is that they graduate from shule with the relationships, the tools and the sense of responsibility that it will take for them to be leaders in the next generation’s role in building a besere velt.

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