Sapphira Fein (Cohort 1)

Sapphira Fein is the librarian/literacy specialist for the Lainer Library at Pressman Academy in Los Angeles. She shares the work that she does in this position and her perspective on that work in the following alumni profile.

“I conduct monthly performance-style storytelling for toddlers ages 4 and under. I read stories and introduce the library experience to pre-K through 1st grade on a weekly basis. I also teach weekly lessons to students in grades 2-5 in reading comprehension, author studies, library skills, non-fiction research, and other topics related to reading and writing.

I organize book clubs for grades 2-8, run a daily intern program for grades 3-8, plan school-wide reading events and fairs, and publish a monthly newsletter. This is in addition to organizing parent volunteers, fundraising, and purchasing and cataloging books to grow our collection.

What are some of the major differences for you moving from being a classroom teacher to being a specialist/librarian?
First of all, I loved being a classroom teacher! And on the other hand, I really enjoy being in the library. While I still consider myself a teacher, the library is a different kind of classroom, and there are major differences in being a specialist of sorts as opposed to the main classroom teacher. First of all, I feel like every student in the school is an opportunity for me to connect, teach, lead, and inspire. I feel like I can be a teacher to anyone in the school. Since this will be my third year in this position, I can now see the benefits of getting to “grow up” with a student as opposed to being so intensely involved in a child’s life for one year and then having to “let them go.” This position also allows me to collaborate with all of my colleagues across grade and subject levels and plan programs for the entire school. I don’t have parent-teacher conferences, but I still feel connected to the parent body and discuss a child’s reading life with parents. While I do care about the whole child, as a specialist, I am not expected to develop a child in all areas. This release of pressure has been great, and I feel more strength to do the best that I can in whatever way I can. On the other hand, it has been more difficult to maintain the momentum of learning a specific unit since I only see students from 30-45 minutes at a time, once a week. I am just one part of their busy scheduled lives so it’s important to me to connect what I do in the library as much as I can with what happens in the classroom. The library is obviously a more public place than a classroom, so I can’t close my door anymore and just have my own time with my students. People are always coming in and out, and I always have one or two teachers and sometimes parents in the library while I’m teaching–so that’s been another difference to get used to!

Upon reflection, how has going through the DeLeT program shaped the way you function in your school and view your role in your school?
DeLeT has certainly given me the confidence to always seek new ways to invent myself, challenge myself, and contribute to the utmost of my abilities. When I wanted a change after teaching fourth grade for five years, my experience in DeLeT helped me see the ways I could grow within the school community I enjoyed.

How does integration factor into your teaching?
I am always thinking of ways to integrate in my library curriculum so that students don’t see the library as a separate entity from what happens in their main classroom. What’s great about being at Pressman’s library is that I am free to introduce new programs like the one I did last year–a school-wide read in Hebrew–I called it Sefer Ehad, Beit Sefer Ehad (One Book, One School). I chose the book When the Shark and the Fish First Met, written by Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit when he was a child in fifth grade, and nine years before he was kidnapped and taken captive. It is a hope-filled allegory of a shark and a fish that learn to play together despite all the odds. To hear a moving read-aloud of the story by 5th grade students in New York, check out this YouTube Video.

The School-Wide Read was introduced on Yom Ha-zikaron to Grades 1-5 and middle school during t’fillah. On Monday, May 11th at 2:15pm we had a School-Wide reading of the book in Hebrew. Everyone heard the story at the same time in their respective classrooms or another location in the synagogue building. I got on the PA system and got to use my Hebrew to begin the reading! Students recorded their discussions on posters that were hung in the library. I also followed up with an activity when classes came for their library visit. The project then continued in our students’ homes over Shavuot when students were encouraged to read the story to their families and engage in Torah study related to the story. We sold a limited amount of hardcover copies of the book in the library, but we also had photocopies of the story available for everyone. I did send some materials and illustrations the students made to the Shalit family in Israel.

You’ll find the attachments here for the take-home packet I made, along with the letters I prepared for teachers and parents.”

Shalit Hebrew School Wide Read Family

Letters to Teachers, Readers, & Parents and follow-up