Meet Katia Rozhdestvenska
Although Katia Rozhdestvenska had visited Israel five times since graduating high school, she wanted to return this year as an MITF fellow because it would give her a chance to get to know Israeli life in a deeper and more intimate way.
“I wanted to see and understand the Israeli school system, and if I could possibly fit into it somehow. I also wanted to know Israel from more than just a tourist perspective. I wanted to know it from the inside and deeply connect to the land, people, culture,” Katia said.
Katia, 23, was interested in being in Jerusalem in particular. “This city is on fire spiritually and culturally. There is so much to see and learn and do,” she said.
Katia hails from Plano Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a major in child development and education. She also earned her early childcare through sixth grade teaching certification. Katia has experience coaching gymnastics and substitute teaching at a Jewish day school in Dallas.
At the Harel School in Jerusalem’s Ramot Bet neighborhood, Katia teaches students in third through sixth grade and has been paired with a wonderful teacher.
“My host teacher is so loving to the students, other teachers, and me. She cares for me like a big sister, which is such a blessing since I don’t have any family in Israel. My school has also been so incredibly welcoming and appreciative of my coming. It’s a really warm environment to work in,” Katia said.
She is grateful for the opportunity to bring her own ideas into the classroom. “It takes initiative, but it’s really what you make of it,” she said.
The long commute to and from her apartment in the German Colony (which she shares with eight other women from the program) to the school is Ramot can be challenging, but Katia uses the time constructively by listening to podcasts.
Katia grew up with little Jewish observance, but since high school she has grown closer to Jewish practices and taken an interest in spirituality. For her, being in Jerusalem is a gift. It’s a unique city where she can continue on her journey and “surround myself with people who are so turned on to spiritually-infused living,” as she put it.
Shabbat is a special time and the highlight of Katia’s week. Each Shabbat, she and her roommates have at least one meal at home together. It’s a potluck, where everyone brings a dish.. For other meals, she and her friends can get connected to hosts families.
Weekday evenings are also busy for Katia, as she likes to take advantage of the variety of classes and events that are offered around the city. She also hangs out with her roommates and other MITF fellows for movie nights and coffee dates.
A serious musician, Katia brought her violin with her to Israel and tries to find time to play — including for the students at her school. For her, playing violin is “meditative and grounding.”
Katia has made a concerted effort in the last few years to learn Hebrew, using apps and self-study programs. Being in Jerusalem with MITF has given her a big push to improve her language skills, both through the MITF ulpan program and by using Hebrew in her daily life as she moves about the city.
While Katia puts in the work to improve her Hebrew, she will soon be helping not only the children at the Harel School with their English. She will soon begin volunteering at the Lone Soldier Center, helping interested soldiers improve their English skills, as well.