Meet Nicole Schlesinger
“My favorite thing about MITF is the excitement of the children and their eagerness to learn and use English. Every day I come into school and the students ask if I will be working with them,” said Nicole Schlesinger.
Nicole joined MITF with Ramah Israel to get a firsthand experience of education in a different country. Nicole worked as a teacher for several years in New York before arriving in Jerusalem for the year. She has an MA in early childhood education and early childhood special education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to that she attended Yeshiva University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in sociology, with a minor biology. Nicole has her teacher’s certification in both early childhood education and students with disabilities. She is currently working on a second master’s degree — in literacy at Hunter College — but took a leave of absence from it to participate in MITF.
Having visited Israel six times previously, Nicole was certain she wanted to be in Jerusalem this year. She also felt comfortable joining a program run by Ramah.
“I chose to do MITF with Ramah Israel for two reasons. The first is, it was very important for me to be in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the only place I could envision myself living in; it is the capital of Israel and so diverse religiously. The second is, some of my siblings grew up going to Camp Ramah and one of them still does, so I understood Ramah as an organization,” said Nicole, who grew up in Sharon, Massachusetts.
Nicole, 28, teaches 2nd through 6th grades at the Ofarim School in Jerusalem’s Homat Shmuel neighborhood. Sometimes she teaches entire classes, while other times she teaches smaller groups of students, or one-on-one. She loves it when students come up to her during breaks to practice their English with her. One student even asked to work one-on-one with Nicole on a weekly basis as a birthday present!
Although Nicole’s experience at the school has been positive over all, there have been some challenges. She speaks some Hebrew, but definitely not as fluently and quickly as her students.
“When the students speak, they speak really fast and I’ll have to ask them to speak slowly to be able to try to get the gist. Additionally, as an experienced teacher, there are cultural differences in the way teaching and planning are taught, which are things I have had to adjust to,” she said.
Nicole said her Hebrew, which she originally learned by attending Jewish day school for 12 years, is improving to the point where she finds herself speaking too much Hebrew — and not enough English — with her students.
Nicole grew up in a Modern Orthodox family. Although she doesn’t like to give herself any labels right now, she is still very much involved in the Modern Orthodox world and enjoys celebrating Shabbat and holidays with friends, family, and new acquaintances she has met in the local “Anglo” (English-speaking) community. Nicole lives in a shared apartment in the German Colony neighborhood, and appreciates the close proximity to a variety of synagogues. She heads on occasion to the Kotel, which is not too far a walking distance away.
Before arriving in Jerusalem, Nicole was a teacher in the New York City Department of Education. She worked with students in pre-K through 5th grade, teaching them English language arts, science, social studies, math, and social-emotional learning. She also developed individualized lessons for students with disabilities. Now she can add teaching English to Israeli students to her resume.