Bridging My Jewish Identity and My Profession
My Jewish identity has always been very important to me. As a child, I remember regularly attending Shabbat services, enjoying my standing seat beside the cantor’s wife. I remember how much I thrived at the Jewish overnight camp I attended every summer, lapping up the songs and teachings.
Another innate piece of my identity has been my passion for education. My family had a granite chalkboard, procured from a local school that had been torn down, in our family basement. Every day, I would head down the basement, line my dolls up in front of the board and become a teacher guiding my dolls through the lessons of the day. From that point on, it was clear to everyone that I was meant to teach.
When it came to combining these two aspects of who I am, the opportunity eluded me until I was a bit older. I was fortunate to travel to Israel and teach there for a few years before returning to work as an educator in Toronto. When sending my own child off to school, I reflected on both my educational and Jewish values, and ultimately decided to enrol him in a Jewish day school. To me, it is the perfect marriage of two things my family values immensely.
It was that same sentiment that brought me to Bialik.
In my first few months at Bialik, I’ve found that the school, staff, and parents truly exemplify the highest ideals across both areas. I’ve witnessed the strong sense of community, our staff’s dedication, and the overarching growth mindset that permeates everything we do.
We don’t just teach about Judaism, we live it
As we all know, community is an intrinsic part of being Jewish and I see that reflected every day at Bialik. In my lengthy career, I’ve never had the opportunity to experience and talk to children and parents about important aspects of our lives as Jews; nor to experience our spirited weekly Kabbalot Shabbat or the singing of prayers and songs on chaggim, such as Rosh Hashanah. It has been such a special experience to join a school that values the cultivation of Judaism, religious commitment and healthy relationship building.
From the many informal chats I’ve had during morning drop-off, it has become clear to me that the sense of community I feel here doesn’t start in the classrooms; it starts in the homes of our families. I am keen to foster these values and enable our students to stay committed to our people’s history, culture and language.
Staff value a holistic approach
I have been inspired by our faculty’s dedication and commitment to their profession. Outside of classroom teaching, many staff run extracurricular activities for students — from drama clubs to intramural sports. Staff members who go the extra mile bring enormous value and I feel lucky to be part of a group of professionals so genuinely dedicated to improving the lives of their students.
I aim to follow that same Bialik spirit in my role as principal, where I see myself as an instructional leader first and then an administrator. I’ve been immersing myself in all aspects of our school — working with faculty on their curricula as well as going to see our basketball games — as I become an active member of our school in all ways.
A growth mindset
As an academic institution, we’re focused on helping your children grow and learn, and I see this approach infused into everything at Bialik. Our faculty and administration are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice and the way they approach their teaching. As a result, I have also leaned into the growth mindset. I’ve come to this new position with an open mind and I’m purposefully taking the time to listen and observe. While I’m continuing to find my voice at Bialik, I hope to find ways to improve upon our school based on my own experiences and expertise.
As we close out 2022, I am so proud to have joined the Bialik family of students, faculty, staff and parents. I look forward to continuing to grow and learn with the entire Bialik community in the coming year.
Himel Branch Principal