Meet Eileen Watts
Eileen Watts won the Kohelet Prize for Interdisciplinary Instruction, as part of a team of two at Kohelet Yeshiva High School. Check out their winning entry, Philosophical Ethics and the Meeting of Minds, here:
In your experience, what is the greatest challenge facing students/teachers today?
The Siren Song of technology. Young people would much rather be online (Facebooking, Iinstagramming, IMming), playing computer games, etc., than read or actually learn the social skills involved in speaking to each other face to face.
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.
Yes. That moment was when the students actually inhabited the minds of the philosophical and theological figures they were ‘playing’ and arguing with one another as those figures.
What advice would you give teachers who want to attempt something new and different in their own classrooms?
Trust the students. They will be excited to be part of a pioneering experience, and in our experience, they will rise to the occasion.
What’s your favorite part of your teaching day and why?
Double periods. They give me 80 minutes of uninterrupted immersion in whatever topic is at hand (reading a play, workshopping essay components, etc.)
How do you ensure that you’re always growing professionally?
An academic at heart and by training, I have been educating myself in, as it happens, Jewish philosophy, to better apply it to literary texts.
If you had one piece of advice to share with a new teacher walking into his/her classroom for the first time…
Prepare twice as much material as you think you’ll need per class meeting, and make sure your students know you believe in them.
What are some ways in which you motivate your students to become lifelong learners?
They see how passionate I am about learning new disciplines to apply to/ integrate with literary texts, and they see that I continue to publish. I think my obvious excitement and joy in ‘finding things out’ (to paraphrase Richard Feynman) is contagious, and believe that my students will become life-long learners.