Faculty members visit Israeli school as part of teacher exchange program

Chronicle Staff


By Daniel Rothberg

Two teachers returned Sunday after visiting Ironi Dalet High School in Tel Aviv where they explored ways in which Harvard-Westlake could broaden its global education program.

As part of a teacher exchange program, Middle School Communications Department Head Jen Bladen and Middle School Chaplain Emily Feigenson attended classes at the Israeli school, met with its teachers and toured sites in Israel. Ironi Dalet currently has exchange programs with schools in Singapore, Germany, Spain and Brazil, in addition to a program with Los Angeles Hebrew High School, Bladen said.

“The school we are observing provides a number of different opportunities for their students to encounter family life, culture and society of another country,” Feigenson said in an e-mail from Israel last Wednesday.

Bladen and Feigenson arrived in Tel-Aviv April 16 and departed April 25.

At Ironi Dalet, Bladen and Feigenson spoke to a group of students who had participated in the school’s global education program.

“The kids at Ironi Dalet who have traveled abroad with their peers have come back changed,” Bladen said last Wednesday. “I am hopeful that before too long Harvard-Westlake will be offering experiences like this for our students.”

While they spent the majority of their trip in Tel Aviv, Bladen and Feigenson visited sites in Haifa, Jerusalem and Ceasaria as well.

Additionally, Bladen and Feigenson’s trip coincided with Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day.

“[On] Sunday night we went to a very somber Memorial Day ceremony in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv with 47,000 other people,” Bladen said.

In addition to learning about Ironi Dalet’s global education program, Bladen and Feigenson hoped to learn more about the Israeli school system, Feigenson said.

After talking to students at Ironi Dalet, Feigenson was struck by how similar Harvard-Westlake students were to their Israeli counterparts.

“I had the opportunity to observe a class of very smart [and] motivated 8th grade students here in Tel Aviv,” Feigenson said. “It was remarkable to hear how very similar they are to our Harvard-Westlake students. In their English class, they considered an ethics topic and it was like hearing Harvard-Westlake students with accents.”

After her freshman year in high school, Feigenson lived abroad as an exchange student in Puebla, Mexico.

“I went essentially on my own and lived with a family,” Feigenson said. “At Harvard-Westlake, I would rather see some sort of group venture that would provide students with a supportive presence while they get to know their host family and school.”

Bladen also emphasized the importance of participating in an exchange program with a group of peers rather than participating in a program individually.

Two teachers from Ironi Dalet will be visiting Harvard-Westlake next month as part of the teachers exchange program.