Excellence in Teaching - Here Too, it Takes a Village

Jul. 10, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 3 , pages 203 - 215


This article takes as its starting point the conviction that high quality Jewish education depends heavily on high quality teaching. Grounded in this idea and in a multileveled exploration—one indebted to recent Jewish thought—of the nature of excellence in teaching and its defining characteristics, the article proceeds to try to understand policy implications that might flow from possible and actual conclusions concerning these characteristics. Along the way, the policy implications that would flow from an inability to identify a core of characteristics shared by excellent teachers are also explored. The article concludes by highlighting the indispensable role of communities in fostering excellence in teaching in Jewish education: In explaining this role, it seeks to identify some of the key qualities of communities that succeed in this challenge.


The article outlines a number of matters that if cultivated by a community over time will result in sustaining high quality teaching:


The community will embody conditions that:

  1. enable it to identify and recruit individuals who already have the characteristics that make for excellence in teaching or who have high potential for achieving such excellence.
  2. enable and encourage high quality teachers to find meaningful arenas in which to ply their trade and in which to continue to grow professionally.
  3. ensure that high quality teachers feel adequately supported financially and genuinely appreciated for their efforts and contributions. While offering teachers such rewards is unlikely to mean much if opportunities for meaningful work (as specified in point 2) are unavailable, these rewards are, both symbolically and practically, of critical importance if high-quality teachers are to continue in the field at a high level of quality.
Updated: Oct. 14, 2009