ATT dinner honors teaching excellence

Some 350 educators, community members, friends and lay leaders gathered on Tuesday, March 28 to make this year’s ATT celebration of educators an inspiring evening celebrating Jewish education in Chicago.

The event was a pivot from previous ATT dinners, where community leaders were honored. Instead, the honorees of the evening were the hundreds of dedicated teachers in ATT schools.

Introducing the event, Rabbi Mordechai Raizman, CEO of the ATT, said, “Tonight, there is one focus in mind. It is all about the educators–the presentations to the teachers and recognizing the educators in our city for their selfless dedication and devotion to educating the future generations.”

He added, “The ATT is in the background offering classes, courses, mentorship and various trainings to further the professional growth of our educators. We are here to guide and support all the teachers of our community in your individual journeys, but you are the ones on the front lines doing all the work–putting in the extra hours, preparing lessons, speaking to parents, marking grades and most importantly thinking about how to reach the students in your classroom.”

The program also highlighted ways the ATT team are proud to support teachers, administrators and students. ATT Board Co-President Stan Gertz says, “The ATT’s mission is to help support education in this system and that does not go without starting with the teachers first, making sure they have every resource available to them so that they can help raise our children to be the best Jews and best citizens they can be.”

The ATT has over a 90-year history of supporting Chicago Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Dr. Leonard Matanky, dean of ICJA, says, “The ATT has been committed to creating Jewish educational opportunities in Chicago from the moment it was founded, and the way that they impact our schools today is by helping our teachers become better professionals. By making sure we have standards, by making sure we have dreams and by making sure that we have the opportunities to learn how to reach our students.”

The power of professional development and mentoring that the ATT provides has a ripple effect across the system. Rabbi Avrohom Moller, superintendent of education says, “Good teachers that I know are teachers who are constantly growing personally and professionally. There’s nothing more powerful than when a teacher tells his class that I’m going to class tonight to learn how to be a better teacher. Being a perpetual learner is where it’s at.”

Presenting the winning teachers of the Hartman Educator Award

The highlight of the evening’s program was honoring three winners of the the ATT’s 12th Annual Hartman Family Foundation Educator of the Year Awards: Elise Glatz, Arie Crown Hebrew Academy; Olivia Friedman, Ida Crown Jewish Academy; and Rivkie Levitin, Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov.

The top award for Glatz is sponsored in memory of Mrs. Gayle Ann Herwitz. Mark Hartman says, “In my experience the award has taken great teachers and made them even better. The award has given many teachers the due credit that they deserve.”

ACHDS first grade teacher Elise Glatz was honored by the award and says, “I’m in a room with 20-something first graders all day, and most things you do don’t get noticed. You go above and beyond for your students. You feel the appreciation when you see a student who’s now able to do something–that’s your reward as a teacher. But to be recognized is a very good feeling.”

The award and selection process are designed to highlight the outstanding and innovative efforts of our educators. The ATT and Hartman Family Foundation hope that through the awarding of this prize not only three of the most outstanding teachers in Chicago are recognized, but the award also further elevates and ennobles the entire profession in the eyes of our community.

Awards are selected by a committee of educational consultants and community members. Selection criteria for the Educator Award include exceptional instructional skills in a nurturing environment, commitment to one’s students’ success, superior communication skills with parents, students, and peers, commitment to continued professional development, and contributions to one’s school’s learning community.

The power of the Hartman teaching award is not only in the recognition teachers get, but also in the idea of the award as a goal. JDBY kindergarten teacher Rivkie Levitin says, “I put a lot more into my teaching this year through the process of the Hartman Award. The more I worked toward it, the more confident I was in myself. I was implementing other ideas expecting the possibility of Rabbi Moller coming into video me. I really gained from the experience.”

Olivia Friedman, who teaches Tanach at ICJA, pointed out that this is the first time that a winner is the student of two previous Hartman Educator Award winners. Rabbi Matanky says, “Olivia is always trying to find new things that will engage her students.”

Friedman says, “I think it’s really important for the students to see that their teachers are also learners. Because how can I expect a student to learn and to go and do homework and take my class seriously if I’m not doing the same thing.”

Thank you to the ATT staff and lay leadership who made this year’s annual dinner such a success.