Our Parents’ Farewell Address
At our Pre-Graduation Zoom Ceremonies, we were privileged to hear from two alum parents, Joanna Sugar’84 at our Viewmount Branch and Melita Sager’95 at our Himel Branch. Both their heartfelt addresses to the Class of 2021 spoke of the impact Bialik has made on their lives and those of their families.
Good Evening, my name is Joanna and I’m speaking as an alum and on behalf of my husband Michael and our three Bialik grads, Isabel, Teddy and, as of tonight, Luke Wunder.
When asked over the years “so how do your kids like Bialik?” I’ve always given the same answer: “Bialik may not have been the perfect school for any one of our kids, but it has been the perfect school for all of them.” Sitting at dinner a week ago, I mentioned being asked to say a few words at grad, and received a range of responses. Issy became super stressed about my getting started and kindly offered to ghost write it for me. Our middle son, Teddy, shrugged and asked me to pass the potatoes. And Luke requested that I meet the time allotment and not embarrass him. These reactions indicate the essence of our kids — each with very different personalities, styles and needs. Bialik, amazingly, managed to meet these all these needs and instill a love of learning and core competencies that prepared them for high school and beyond.
10. The playground. Before it got fancy, the Bialik playground saved my sanity, as well as many dollars in after school programming. At the end of a long day with one kid in a stroller, one to be picked up at 3.45 and another at 4:00 p.m., sitting in that playground under a tree was a beautiful way to segue from one part of the day to another. As the kids grew and developed friends and their throwing arms, we would often hang out there for several hours until security politely let us out. The friends I made with the moms of like-minded kids persist to this day, and I look back fondly on that idyllic time.
9. The front office staff. Allison’s smile and joy greeting every day, Ilanit’s patience at finding whatever form we neglected to fill out, and Karen’s understanding when we forget to email email@example.com have been indispensable to our family. As the “face” of Bialik, their combination of personality and efficiency is something very special that we will miss. It simply does not exist in high school.
8. Special events. Bialik has always excelled at these. Collecting rainbows, matchbox cars, and lego men for the 100th day of school. Sobbing through Yom Hazikaron Ceremonies and unexpectedly loving Yiddish Night. Braving the chaos of Science Fair in the “before times.” During the pandemic, Kahoots, parent speaker series, and Eating out Loud stand out as fun and educational events that we will not soon forget. I now know to roast cauliflower at 500 degrees so thank you for that!
7. The behind-the-scenes frontline workers. We cannot say enough about the supporting staff at Bialik, without whom things would simply not run. Matthew Connors and the IT team have been incredibly responsive and effective especially in this past year. When I text him, he answers, and I am so grateful for his patience with my dumb questions. As for Tony and the dynamic duo of Jude and Joseph, I could cry thinking about not seeing them any more. They are some of the kindest, sweetest people on the planet and they deserve a medal for everything they deal with on a daily basis.
5. Values. Bialik is a big place. Somehow though, it manages to feel haymishe from the moment you enter it. It has a cool “vibe” as the kids say, that mixes a. modern STEM lab with kindergarten art pieces. In our time here we have appreciated the school’s increased emphasis towards Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah initiatives. Our kids have emerged from Bialik as strong Zionists, learners, friends and humans, and the school gets credit for much of that!
4. Calls from the Principal’s office. So we have received our fair share of these. And they have not always been sunshine and roses. However Jake, Benjy, Shoshana and Blake have always managed to provide balanced and constructive feedback and also to accept it in return. I will embarrass Jake (and age myself) by saying I have literally watched him grow up from a junior SK teacher to a strong, forward thinking, empathetic leader of a complicated school. So impressive and an amazing role model for our own children.
3. The Lost and Found. I can’t be the only parent to get immense joy from doing a bi monthly rummage of the Bialik Lost and Found and unearthing a beloved hockey team hat or a long forgotten $50 thermos? Whoever the saintly people are who deal with this mess and maintain it like a relatively clean thrift shop have my undying gratitude. To all the volunteers, committees and PTA at Bialik who have made years of programming and fun for the kids possible — bravo and Thanks!
2. Teachers. This is another item that just might make me cry. There are toomany of you who have done too much to list. You’ve made difficult calls when things aren’t going well, and provided extra support and strategies wheneverappropriate. You have instilled competence and confidence in them, and literally helped pave their way to high school. We salute you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
1. This moment. As our last child gets up on a Bialik stage to receive a diploma, we have the bittersweet sense of closing an important chapter and starting a new one. To Luke and his fellow graduates: You. Are. Amazing. You have survived and thrived through a year of restrictions and zooms. You have stayed engaged and in love with learning. Bialik helped you through all that and made it look easy, which it wasn’t. You may not know it now, but you will miss Bialik too and be as grateful as we are for all that it gave you.
Elbows Up to all the Grads and Fellow Families of the Class of 21!
It is my pleasure to speak to you today as a Bialik alum, as your Grade Rep and a proud parent of a graduating Bialik student. I would like to start by saying a huge Mazal Tov to the first-ever graduating class at Bialik Himel!
I would also like to say a huge thank you to Beverley Young and Lauren Damelin as well as Jacob Gallinger, Yotam Weiner, the Bialik Viewmount grad committee, my co-chair Vered, Lydia Levin, and the PTA for all the hard work they put into graduation. A lot of planning happens after hours, on the weekends and there have been tons of phone calls, Zoom calls, calls to Sandra Racco’s office and so much more. I really want to say how impressed I am by how flexible and resilient the school has been with all the daily changes and restrictions put in place. Most recently how Mrs. Young and Mrs. Damelin faced the challenge head on with very little time to allow us to see our kids graduate in person! Thank you for making this day so special for us!
Bialik has been my home since I was in Grade 1. I remember sitting at my desk in 1C and I can still recall the smell of apple juice and glue, getting hugs from my Hebrew teacher, Chava Lopata, and our favourite janitor, Tommy, who burst into our class one morning and shouted “You no flush an orange down the toilet!”
I couldn’t have known then how being at Bialik would always remain a part of my life. How my favourite teacher, Jeff Krupski, would give me the courage to try out for the basketball team, and how that would give me the inspiration to become a coach and later a teacher. Or, how Ziona Hagler’s funny and eccentric personality would make us self-conscious as we marched in her Purim parades and enjoyed her funny costumes in class.
I remember Mrs. Young, my French teacher, teaching us how to conjugate “er” verbs by doing a “chop chop” of the letters at the end. And our Mishna teacher, Ami Yarimi, teaching us to meditate long before that became trendy. These teachers and many others inspired us, pushed us and didn’t accept any less than the best because they wanted us to succeed.
My parents chose to send me to Bialik because they wanted an excellent Jewish education, and the chance to grow up with Jewish kids. My parents came from Romania which was a country that discouraged religious practices and they wanted to provide an opportunity that they didn’t have. My husband and I wanted the same for our kids and we wanted our kids to feel cared for and a space for our kids to feel loved. I remember when I toured Bialik, Beverley took me around the school. Each door opened up to a familiar face and when we were done she turned to me and said, “So, are you home yet?” It was then that I knew — this was home for us.
Today, we are proud to see our children, Amy and Ethan, continuing on this path. We are proud to watch them grow in many different ways and to see them taking leadership roles on the holidays, especially around the Passover Seder. It is truly a special moment every Friday, as Amy joins us in lighting candles for Shabbat.
Amy joined the Bialik family in Grade 5 and, for the last four years, has also called Bialik home. As I look back, I feel surrounded by gratitude. The teachers who have guided and inspired her, some of whom I have known since I was a student in their class! And, some who I have only recently met that are warm and caring and compelled to push the students to do their very best.
And, what a special class! In such a small group setting you would think the kids would fight, but what an amazing group of kids they are! I am truly impressed by their thoughtfulness and kindness. Whether it’s making sure that someone’s locker is decorated for their birthday or including all kids at recess, they work hard to stick together. I know I speak for all the parents when I say how proud I am of all of you, your menschlechkeit behaviour and of how much you have grown.
Mazal Tov to the first ever graduating class at Bialik Himel!