Jodi Hirsch Rein (Cohort 1)

Q: What year did you graduate DeLeT/What cohort and campus are you from?

I was part of Brandeis Cohort 1, 2002-2003! I received my MAT from Brandeis in 2005.

Q: What is your current position?

I work at Gesher Jewish Day School, in Fairfax Virginia, currently as the Elementary School Principal. Next year, I will be the principal for the entire school.

Q: Are you doing anything extra outside of your teaching responsibilities?

Extra!? I am a rabbi’s wife! And I’m a principal! And I have two awesome, rambunctious, delicious boys! I’m pretty busy. Oh, and I’m on the Ramah D.C. Day Camp Committee.

Q: We hear you took on an administrative role in your school when you joined in 2014. Can you tell us about yourself as a leader?

My first year at Gesher, I spent a lot of time learning the culture of the school. I was really focused on the day-to-day of the school and I definitely got “caught in the weeds.” As I grew in my second year, I learned how to manage my time better and prioritize the things that I believed were the most important for the school. We also got a new HOS at Gesher and I began to look forward and envision all the possibilities for the school. Before I could even think about myself as a leader, however, I had to get myself “out of the weeds.” I listed all of my hopes and dreams for Gesher and made a plan for how to achieve them over time. Although there were many things I wanted to tackle, I knew that I wanted to tackle school culture, discipline, and building the community first.

I documented how much time is being invested in discipline each week. Just like my Brandeis MAT research project’s approach, I knew that collecting data is a powerful means to think about school change based in real numbers. The faculty was ready for change as well. The HOS and the admin team all agreed that we should focus on aligning school community and discipline approaches. As a result, last year we examined this as a school-wide issue. We sent five staff members to Responsive Classroom trainings. During the following school year we committed our staff professional development time to improving discipline and the staff worked together to develop and learn about how we will approach developing community and classroom rules. This summer, Gesher is sending more staff to Responsive Classroom training. The number of discipline issues have reduced significantly.

Next year we’ll focus on building communal systems in the school to align our classrooms so students can easily transition from one year to the next with rules, structures, and communal classroom organization. This supports our belief in community development and supporting all learners as they grow. Although it can be a challenge to ignore the sound around you about other pressing school issues, I knew that focusing on improving classroom community and discipline would benefit the school and help me move the school to the next level.

Q: What are you listening to/reading these days?

As I expand my leadership role into the Middle School next year, I am reading the book called The First 90 Days in order to best establish myself with an expanded team.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at your school?

I love being in a warm, nurturing environment where everyone that works at Gesher deeply wants to be at Gesher. I also grew up in Northern Virginia, so I love that I have been given the opportunity to give back to the Jewish community that raised me.

Q: What are some lessons you learned in DeLeT that have served you well in your teaching career?

Gosh! So many! The power of collegiality is the most important lesson that I got from DeLeT. No one should ever feel like s/he is doing the job alone. Everyone needs a good mentor and great supportive colleagues around them. That is why I continue to model and mentor teachers and we reflect together on our successes and challenges. I recently took on a new coach for myself, so I can continue to grow in my leadership role.

Q: What makes you proud to be a DeLeT alum?

I associate DeLeT teachers and DeLeT with high standards. DeLeT prepared me well for a career in Jewish Day Schools. I feel proud and fortunate that I was able to learn with some of the best educators who continue today to be a part of DeLeT and Brandeis’ Teacher Leadership Program.