Incredible Things Are Happening in Rehovot
Our first stop in Rehovot was at Yeshivat AMIT Amichai an all-boys school with 425 kids in grades 7-12. There are now 300 kindergartens, up from 78 a few years ago. A key reason for this amazing growth is families are attracted to living here because of its high-quality education. The population includes students from Ethiopia, Yemen, Russia, and many other countries. To keep religious students in town, AMIT opened Amichai. While there were many skeptics who said that no one would attend the schools, there is now a waiting list for 150 children. I asked Principal Rabbi Shimon Shushan about this and he replied, “eight years ago the AMIT Schools were at a 40% Bagrut rate in Rehovot and today the Bagrut rate is 90%, which is quite impressive for such a diverse student population.” Rabbi Shushan was quite emotional as he spoke about how you can feel the charm of the school throughout the hallways; it’s a warm feeling of one mishpacha (family). Walking through the school, you feel the energy and bustle emanating from the students. Often, lessons take place outside of the classroom in experiential learning environments. One English teacher works with the 8th-grade class on an anti-bullying program. Amichai students visit different elementary schools throughout Rehovot to teach English and encourage the kids to sign an anti-bullying pledge. They discuss how to be an Upstander (a decent and considerate person) for fellow students and friends, in and out of school. Shushan explained that AMIT Amichai is here to care, educate, and protect all the students and help them to realize their full potential.
Next, we visited AMIT Rehovot Junior and Senior High School where 435 girls in grades 7-12 have the privilege of being led by one of the most impressive principals I had the pleasure to meet, Miri Gil. Anyone who wants to attend the school is welcome, and there are many children from a low socio-economic background. All the girls are encouraged and given the confidence to excel and reach for the stars. Here the students study English communications at a 4-pt. and 5-pt. level (highest) and are provided with extra tutoring if needed. Over the course of six years the school went from a 50% to a 100% Bagrut rate. Two things that struck me as quite unique is that the school places an emphasis on both chemistry and physics studies, whereas most schools, it’s one or the other. The principal brought the innovative Shamayim program for teacher training into the school. Teachers video their lessons, and then they are reviewed and analyzed by their peers with discussions held about how to improve their teaching approach. This model was created by the military and while it is very difficult, once teachers become comfortable with this style, it is highly effective.
Miri also shared a story about one of her Ethiopian students who wanted to study medicine. Several years went by and Miri, while visiting her sister in the hospital, was surprised to see her former student at the hospital and asked what are you doing here? Her student said I’m here to see Rachel (Miri’s sister). Miri realized that the student had fulfilled her dream and was now a doctor. The school has incorporated the pedagogical learning style known as Gogya into the curriculum and it has a state-of-the-art mini-Gogya Center, which provides an open learning environment where up to 100 girls can learn at one time. The dedication of Principal Miri Gil is so profound that even while she was going through treatment for cancer, she was most interested in ensuring that her girls would all graduate from school, and in fact, they all did which made her very proud.
More about AMIT and Rehovot in my next blog post…
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