An Interview with 2017 Alumna Naema Tenenbaum (Nee Fishkind)
Updated: Apr 8
Naema Tenenbaum has been teaching for six years, most recently at Torah School of Greater Washington as the fourth-grade ELA teacher and mentor. She also serves as an administrative consultant for The Machon: Center for Torah based Curricula. This semester, she is also teaching Instructional Design at WITS. Welcome to our Faculty Naema!
What inspired you to go for a doctorate in Education?
Being a successful general studies teacher can inspire anyone! I realized that I understand the students very well, I have a sense of what motivates them, and I have worked to craft a successful, sustainable classroom management program. I have taken on curriculum development, teacher leadership, and a mentoring position. I recently finished my master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and the more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to know.
There will be even more significant workload in the doctorate program than the masters, but five years from now, I will still be five years older—I figure I might as well also have the credentials. Working on my masters while raising children and holding down a job helped prepare me. I have spent many nights completing research reports with a baby on my lap. It’s not going to get any easier—for me, the easiest time to do anything is as early as possible. Thankfully, the doctorate program is completely online which gives it more flexibility.
When you know you are good at something and passionate about it, it lights a fire beneath you and propels you to do the best job possible. I plan on taking on a leadership role in the future, as well as continuing to research and develop a classroom management model that works for our frum schools. I will use my doctorate in Instructional Leadership to continue to craft replicable, schoolwide classroom management and motivation techniques, and enhance academic accountability.
I recently started an education professional development and leadership blog (frominstitutiontoinspiration.blogspot.com), and I plan to eventually publish my research. When students come into a class with a teacher who enjoys teaching, knows how to give over the information, can manage the behavior of the students and relate to them—that is an irresistible model for success.
Do you have any advice for students going into Education?
Absolutely! Firstly, if you are interested in education, get a job working at a Jewish school. Once you work in a school, you are a candidate to receive Title II money from the government, which will reimburse a large part of your Education. But it gets better: The Crane Foundation covers up to $1,500 or 50% of your expenses toward a degree in education within the Jewish community. With these, you barely have to pay anything. No loans needed.
I highly recommend the American College of Education (ace.edu). ACE is a graduate college (both online and in-person) that is almost exclusively for educators. At a college designed by professors who all hold doctorates in education, you can be sure you are getting the best education courses out there. Everything I’m learning is relevant and applicable to the classroom. On the financial side, ACE does not accept any financial aid, because financial aid hikes the price of college up for everyone. This is how they cut costs and charge half of what every other college charges for the same degree!
Being an educator, I see the tremendous importance of having teachers who know what they are doing. It is a shame that so many educators enter the classroom without a clue how to teach, and without understanding classroom management. There is simply no comparison between a teacher with proper educational training and one teacher without it. If you are passionate about reaching students and really succeeding as an educator, a degree in the field is essential.
How did your time at WITS impact you? Was there a specific teacher or class?
WITS gave me the opportunity to pursue higher education. Without the credits from my two years of seminary I would not have completed my BA. My original plan was to become an ultrasound technologist, and I finished the prerequisites. After I applied to schools for ultrasound, I felt I would not be making much of a difference and I switched my focus to education. The unique challenges I had throughout my schooling prepared me to understand kids. It’s all about relationship building, which is my ultimate goal.