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Teachers for life: Mechina graduates working in education begin another year of putting values into action

Five teachers talk about daily work in education, teaching, ethics, and shaping the next generation

Sunday, 02 September 2018 13:25

The new school year is starting. Multitudes of students, and with them teachers, will enter the gates of the schools today as summer vacation draws to a close. The ranks of Israel’s teachers have been filled out in recent years by mechina graduates who want to play an active part in shaping Israeli society. We met up with five teachers who are excited today—actually, every morning of the year—to be a part of the education of Israel’s children.

Guy Steinberg

Alumnus of the eighth class of Mechinat Nachshon, Arabic and language teacher and seventh-grade homeroom teacher at the West Valley School in Yifat

“Since I served in the military, where I first gained experience in guidance, I discovered how interesting and satisfying I find instructing and teaching. In practice, I found a way to combine my two loves—my love of language and my love of transmitting knowledge—and this is how I came to realize I wanted to be a teacher.”

Guy Steinberg was a student at the venerable Mechinat Nachshon 14 years ago. Yet he still describes that year as a significant milestone: “The mechina experience loads you with thoughts and feelings about values, identity, substance, who you are and what you are, what your place in society is, your awareness of the other, caring, thinking about the country and Israeli society—and these things, even though many years have passed since I was a student at mechina, are always with me.”

“As a student at mechina, the job of the counselors enchanted me—to be a figure who works with youth, who provides knowledge and direction, who offers a personal example, is something that I value very much, and today I’m in that place, just in a different setting.”

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Guy teachers both Hebrew and Arabic, and it would be difficult to exaggerate his passion for these subjects. “I hope I’ll be able to transmit my love of the Arabic language to my students. I emphasize to them the importance of knowing Arabic: aside from the fact that Arabic is the language of the countries around us, there are Arabic-speakers living alongside us in this country, all the more so in the Jezreel Valley and Galilee region, and knowing the language makes a clear contribution to the fabric of life here. Naturally, teenagers are not brimming with passion to learn a language, and I see it as a challenge.”

As for teaching Hebrew, Guy says: “From the lofty age of 32, it disturbs me that the youth make a mess of the language. I’m always happy to have an opportunity to correct it and preserve it.”

“To me, instruction is the most important profession in the country,” Guy concludes. “I am privileged to work alongside teachers who dream together, change the world, overcome the day-to-day challenges, and lead the school forward.”

A sentence for the road?

“I’m a teacher! What’s your superpower?”

Timna Linden

Alumna of the sixth class of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, Bible and history teacher and ninth-grade homeroom teacher at Leyada in Jerusalem

“The field of education always was a part of my life, and I knew I would find a place in it one way or another,” says Timna Linden. “At mechina, my desire to be specifically in a formal setting, one that everyone passes through, where it’s possible to have an influence and shape others, took shape. I felt that I wanted to influence the system from within.”

This is Timna’s third year inside the system, and she is only enjoying herself more and more: “The students know I enjoy the profession I chose and that I’m happy with it, and that affects how they perceive the educational experience. I try to meet them at their level and to provide a personal experience that’s customized to each student. It’s important to me to also give them tools and skills for life, for what comes next, not just for doing well on tests.”

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As a Bible teacher at a public school, Timna often needs to convince students of the need to be familiar with the sources: “I try to approach Scripture as a formative text with which it’s possible to have a conversation. The students need to learn first how to even approach the text, understand what’s written there, read it in various ways. The moment they have the space to have a conversation around the text, the connection is formed—and disagreement with the text is a connection, too, as far as I’m concerned.”

As for the role of her year at mechina, Timna says: “Again, at mechina I understood more strongly that I wanted to be in formal education. Also, I draw from my educational experience at mechina and transmit it to the class. The individual study, the one-on-one learning, and the discussion around a matter, adaptation of a text, research work, and leaving the halls of the school to meet people—all of these are tools that I’m happy to import from mechina to my class.”

Ben Erely

Alumnus of the first class of the Rabin Pre-Army Leadership Academy, principal of the Ein Gedi Comprehensive School

For a year now, Ben Erely has been the principal of the school in Ein Gedi, the kibbutz where he grew up, after thirteen years of teaching at the Boyar School in Jerusalem.

“A year ago, I received an offer to serve as principal of the Ein Gedi Comprehensive School (where I studied, though I did not graduate there). When I returned after all those years, I found a system stuck in the past.”

What are the challenges this coming year?

“Aside from achievements in the area of matriculation entitlement, we’re trying to reinvent the school—to implement different learning methods in the classes. An additional challenge, resulting from this, is to help the teachers reconstruct their professional identity and give them meaningful guidance in the process. Also, I aspire for every student to feel a sense of belonging and security in the school.”

Erely has orchestrated the establishment of an educators’ community in Ein Gedi as a means of recruiting teachers who come to the area from afar: “I hope the community will grow and stabilize this year. Teachers from different places are moving here and joining the school because they understood that something interesting was happening here.”

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True, it’s been no fewer than twenty years since he finished mechina, but something of it remains nevertheless:

“Nine years ago, we established a community in Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem where quite a few Rabin Leadership Academy graduates were members. Part of this was the Jerusalem Pre-Military Leadership Program, and the mechina’s story is strong on identity.”

“This year I’ll be a 12th-grade homeroom teacher too, and I counsel them not to go to mechina or for a service year just for the sake of going, but to find the right place for each of them.”

One sentence to wrap up?

“The only way to have an impact on our country is through the schools.”

Yuval Gabbay

Alumnus of the third class of Mechinat Minsharim Kalu, physical education and water sports instructor

Yuval Gabbay imbibed the passion to educate with his mother’s milk: “Both my parents were educators and tour guides. I was a leader in the Tzofim as a teenager, and I was very attracted to work in education.”

“As a child, I always loved all areas of athletics, both being athletic myself and spectating, and in order to get the best of both worlds, I chose to study at the Wingate Institute.”

“As a phys. ed. teacher, now in my fourth year, I need to touch on all the areas in the subject and also understand them in depth. As a result of my position, I can enjoy the best of all worlds: soccer, basketball, water sports, and more. I love teaching people, I love improving how the students perform, aspiring for them to do the exercises with precision.”

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Water sports?

“Indeed. Water sports are a formal activity at the school, also specifically for special education. Every session lasts an hour-and-a-half, in which time they learn rowing, sailing, kayaking, learn about wind, about directions, about the creatures of the sea, and acquire a love of nature. The kids eat it up, and the kids’ happiness at the end of class is very satisfying. In class, I integrate values of mutual assistance, collaboration, teamwork, and the like. In a rowboat, for instance, you feel it right away if someone isn’t rowing, and this way they learn about their important place as part of a team.”

Nevertheless, Yuval sometimes feels that he is missing something: “In my job, I don’t get to accompany them so much through long-term processes and see how they grow, but I do have special and meaningful experiences with them in the short time that we have together.”

Yuval was a student at the mechina in Ma’gan Michael, and that experience is evident in the choices that he makes: “Mechina taught me to be a positive example, and as a teacher, I must be an example of the highest order. My mechina also causes its graduates to want to fix and change reality, and not to stay apathetic to it. I totally start from there—if I see a student smoking, for example, then yes, I’m not his mother or father, I’m not even his personal homeroom teacher, but I’ll talk with him about it, because he’s important to me.”

Ayala Vital

Alumna of the eighth class of the Meitzar Academy for Leadership and Social Responsibility, history and civics teacher, coordinator and eighth-grade homeroom teacher at the Bialik-Rogozin School in southern Tel Aviv

“I always wanted to be a teacher, so what I’m doing is what I love to do,” Ayala Vital says in introduction. “I love working with people, and I’ve loved teaching all my life. I was a leader in a youth movement, and in addition to teaching, I’m an aerobics coach. It’s the most natural thing for me to stand in front of people and deliver information. I wavered over which direction to go in the field of education—mechinot, youth movements, informal education—and I chose teaching, which to me is a combination of formal and informal in terms of the way I teach.”

When she finished her bachelor’s degree, Ayala attended Teach First Israel teacher training. This is her fifth year as a teacher.

“Mechina basically introduced me to the position I held in the army: an education officer. I helped soldiers make up matriculation exams. I was a real teacher, just in front of students in uniform. Thanks to mechina, I discovered the position and changed direction with my placement in the army. It was my first experience with ‘formal’ instruction, which strengthened my understanding that I was going to be a teacher.”

“Also, at mechina they talk about choosing a meaningful way of life, and that also includes choosing to work at something that you love and where you feel you’re having an impact. I’m not here just for the calling—I really enjoy the work. Still, I feel that even though it’s not a sought-after profession with a high salary, it gives me the meaningfulness of civic work.”

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How’s it done?

“When I provide a personal example, impart knowledge and values, encourage active citizenship and values of solidarity, equality, environmental stewardship—that shapes what will be here in the future. For instance, my students are leery of the LGBT community, and express themselves in a way that’s not nice. I introduced them to the community, I had talks with them, and I see it’s getting through to them and changing the discourse.”

“I conceive of it as work with the next generation that will shape Israeli society.”

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