by Claudia Sherman, for Friedel Jewish Academy
In addition to Friedel Jewish Academy’s four general studies teachers and two Jewish studies instructors, the school employs five special teachers. Their specialties range from library, physical education, music, resource and art. “Giving students the opportunity to gain experience in these specialty areas is so important to a well-rounded curriculum,” explained Friedel’s Head of School Beth Cohen.
Tuesday is library day at Friedel, and Librarian Ashley Barrow sees every student that day. Beginning her sixth year at Friedel, Barrow’s goal is “to get a new book to every student as often as possible.” She also tests the children for reading proficiency and substitute teaches at the school when needed.
“FJA is a tight community of people who care about education, children and family,” Barrow added. “It has been an amazing place to learn and grow with the students.”
Deb Johnson has worked in the fitness industry for more than ten years and has “a passion for staying healthy,” she admits. “One of the most important accomplishments I could be rewarded with is to pass on to children a healthy lifestyle by way of activity and diet. It truly is a life commitment and, hopefully, my influence on the kids at an early age will stay with them for a lifetime. I want any kind of movement to be fun no matter what each child chooses,” she insisted. For the past four years, that’s what she’s been doing at Friedel.
“In turn,” Johnson said, “being at Friedel has rewarded me with a new knowledge of the Jewish faith along with many new friends” for which she is “extremely thankful.”
In addition to the program Johnson teaches, Friedel’s physical education curriculum includes weekly swimming taught by Jewish Community Center lifeguards.
A 45-year veteran of teaching band and orchestra in schools in Iowa and Nebraska, Jim Misner was practicing his tennis serve one day at the JCC when “50 kids came out for recess. A young man came over and said, ‘Sir, would you mind if I went on the other side of the net and threw your balls back to you?’” Misner thanked the youngster and accepted his offer. Soon there were 50 kids on the tennis court.
Two teachers supervising the students learned that Misner taught music and, after apologizing for their students upsetting his routine, asked Misner if he would be interested in teaching orchestra at Friedel.
“Friedel and the kids needed me so it wasn’t a hard decision to help them out,” explained Misner, a published composer/arranger. This fall, he begins his third year of teaching instrumental music at Friedel three half-days a week. “Some of our young musicians are really talented, and all are a lot of fun. Many even practice! I believe every student should learn group discipline and have the chance to perform in front of the public.”
A veteran of 34 years as a special education teacher with Omaha Public Schools, Sindie Katskee has also been an OPS and Friedel substitute teacher. She’s been teaching Sunday School — from Torah Tots to seventh graders — at Beth El Synagogue for approximately 15 years. Two of her daughters are former Friedel students.
Last year, Katskee began as Friedel’s resource teacher working part time with students in all grades who need extra help. “I love the small class sizes at Friedel and how everyone knows everyone. As the resource teacher, I have been able to share so much and learn from each of the teachers,” she pointed out. “I enjoy seeing my students succeed.”
This year, Katskee “looks forward to helping and learning with my students. Each one is different, and their learning styles may require extra effort and time. When a student is successful, I am so proud of them.”
Just starting at Friedel this year, Kim Noddle will be the art teacher. “My passion has always been art,” said Noddle, who minored in art when earning her elementary education degree. She started teaching art in her home about seven years ago, opened the ArtRoom in Rockbrook Shopping Center three years ago, and now is teaching at home again. She’ll be at Friedel every Thursday working with all the students.
Having known Beth Cohen from working together on some art projects for the National Council of Jewish Women, Noddle was asked by Cohen to teach an all-school structured art program. There’s an art history component to that, Noddle explained. “I like to introduce the masters to the students.” The youngsters will also do hands-on drawing, painting, collage, print making and sculpture projects. “I’m more interested in the creative process than the product,” Noddle added.
Looking forward to working with the students, Noddle said, “They were wonderful on the first day. I’ve always enjoyed working with elementary age kids.”