It’s a given that networking can get you places. But until last week I hadn’t realized that networking could take me from Newton to North Carolina in less than one week. CJP’s PresenTense Boston Fellowship has been encouraging me to get out there with my fledgling venture, The Jewish Teacher Corps, and network as much as possible. I have, and here’s what happened.

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Last month I attended an event that CJP organized in partnership with JESNA – a community conversation with Boston Jewish education professionals. Aside from being engaged in conversations about best practices and visions for Jewish education, I was definitely networking – introducing myself as the CEO and Founder of the Jewish Teachers Corps. A fellow PresenTense entrepreneur, Brian Fox, introduced me to Arnee Winshall, the co-chair of the Lippman Kanfer Institute, who was enthused about my venture and pulled out her black berry to e-introduce me to Diane Troderman.

Diane and her Husband Harold run the Grinspoon foundation, supporting educational initiatives in western Massachusetts, the US and Israel. Diane is a dynamic leader and I was thrilled to connect with her. We made a coffee date for a month out when Diane would be in Newton and when we finally met we clicked. Diane got my passion for the Jewish Teacher Corps and had great feedback – people to talk to and elements to consider. When she asked what I was doing next Wednesday I figured she wanted to try and have coffee again together. “I’m free.”  “Great,” said Diane, “Then I want you to come to North Carolina with me for the day.”

And in fact, one week later I joined a group of Jewish leaders from western Massachusetts that Diane was taking to visit a leadership magnet school in Raleigh, NC that has built it’s community and curriculum on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Together with a group of Jewish educators from Miami, who have already started to implement a curriculum that is a hybrid of the Covey Habits and Jewish Values, we went to learn what we could implement in our various Jewish educational environments.

 What I learned in less than 24 hours in North Carolina was powerful. I saw students, from kindergarteners to 5th graders, confidently present to a group of strangers about the mission and values of their school, and about their own aspirations towards leadership. We observed a class where students worked in groups to dissect stories; analyzing the character’s through the lens of the Covey principles and playing with legos to depict the impact the characters had. I saw students empowered to solve math problems and interpersonal problems on their own, and kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds strive for the best future for themselves and for their families.

When I came back from Raleigh I googled the school and found pictures from a design challenge they held this past August where students had to make a stable structure using marshmallows, pasta, string and tape. This made me chuckle because we just did this activity at our last PresenTense training to examine teamwork, communication, leadership and out-of-the-box problem solving. It was inspiring to see students engaged in an activity to kick start their leadership at an early age. The lessons from this trip to North Carolina will be valuable when I craft the training for the Jewish Teacher Corps fellows – which will aim to help them empower their students, manage their classrooms and cultivate future Jewish leaders. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to have seen this model in North Carolina, and to connect to other educators. I look forward to future adventures and lessons that networking will bring my way.

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