About the Prize Winners: Elissa Hozore

Meet Elissa Hozore

Elissa Hozore won The Kohelet Prize for Interdisciplinary Integration as part of a team of two at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. Check out their winning entry, Beth Tfiloh’s Lower School Israel Fair: A Student-led Interdisciplinary Experience, here: http://koheletprize.org/database/beth-tfilohs-lower-school-israel-fair-student-led-interdisciplinary-experience/

In your experience, what is the greatest challenge facing students/teachers today?

I think that the speed with which everything is expected to happen is a challenge for all of us. Not only the lack of time in the classroom, but also the quick reactions that are expected from everyone nearly all the time, driven by the instantaneous communications that are a fact of life in this digital age.

In implementing your winning project in the classroom, was there a moment when you knew that you had hit upon something really powerful? If so, describe that moment.

I was in the computer lab with 25 or 30 students from 6 different classes, each working on a project of their own choosing, completely engaged. Their creativity, competence and knowledge was obvious. With relatively little demanded from me, I realized that this was the power of academic choice. This was no accident, but the result of a lot of preparation, teaching and learning. But in giving the students the opportunity to choose how to present what they learned, they not only had the opportunity to show what they knew, but also pushed themselves to learn more, both in terms of content and technical skills.

What advice would you give teachers who want to attempt something new and different in their own classrooms?

Find your allies! Work with colleagues who will give you encouragement and honest, constructive feedback. If possible have them in the room with you while you try. Bring students along on the journey and give them the opportunity to provide their opinions and suggestions. Revise whatever you have done and try again.

What’s your favorite part of your teaching day and why?

My favorite part of the day is right after I say “OK, go ahead” …that is when the students begin (or continue) to do the project at hand. They work independently or in pairs, have a goal and are in the process of creating something to meet the goal. That is the time that I watch to see who has understood, who needs some help, who helps their neighbor, who is going in an unexpected direction. I enjoy it because I get to be the “guide on the side” and not the “sage on the stage.” It is the moment when I say to the students—go, fly, try, revise and try some more.

How do you ensure that you’re always growing professionally?

I attend professional development and take courses when possible and appropriate. I read a lot to learn new tools, techniques and ideas—or new ways to apply them. I try new things by myself and if I like them, I try to fit it into what I do in the classroom. I try not to be close minded, but to be willing to try things that make me uncomfortable or revise something that had not gone well.

What are some ways in which you motivate your students to become lifelong learners?

I learn along with my students, let them know when I am doing things for the first time, and allow them to watch me struggle while I learn. I also show my excitement when I learn something—either from them or by chance. I want the students to know that the thrill of learning something new is a feeling that remains throughout your life.

When I’m not in the classroom I love to _____________. This strengthens my teaching by …

Folk dance. This strengthens my teaching by putting me in the position of a learner and experiencing the work and frustration that my students experience while learning. It also reminds me that most of the time people have to learn and practice things many times to become proficient.