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If you did not notice, I was not around last week. If you did notice and wondered where I was, I was having a fantastic time teaching and learning at the first PRIZMAH Jewish Day School Conference. There were over 1000 Jewish educators in attendance learning from such educational leaders and visionaries as A.J. Juliani, Kim Marshall and Jane McGonigal. I also had the privilege of co-facilitating a three-hour workshop on Project-Based Learning and sitting on a panel discussing bringing innovation to Jewish Day Schools. I taught some, learned much and had a great time thanks to all the hard work of the PRIZMAH staff.

The good times did not end when PRIZMAH ended. I stayed for a few more days designing a new model of Jewish education as part of my work as a designer on the JEIC HaKaveret Design Team with a group of top educators. It was an invigorating week, which turned out to be overshadowed by the fantastic creative week that followed here at school!

On Tuesday, our Debate Team competed at the de Toledo High School Debate Tournament.

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The team did an excellent job winning rounds and taking names. However, it was not about what rounds they won or loss, but what they learned. Debate Team Captain, Binyamin Levy, highlighted this when he told me that “during the Public Forum debate, I began to appreciate the value of teamwork fully. Success in a team event is impossible unless both team members are constantly on the same page, and when both members work together seamlessly, the result is impressive. The synergy Zevi and I cultivated over many hours of practice and discussion definitely paid off.” Onward and upward Debate Team! We are all very proud of you and thank you to Mr. Schaefer for giving of your time each week to support them!

Wednesday night, another creative competition ensued when our VT ComedySportz High School League team competed against our good friends at Agoura High School.

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The match was held at the beautiful EMEK Hebrew Academy auditorium. Thank you EMEK for opening your wonderful space to us. It was a hilarious show, and our team was on top of their game, although Agoura certainly brought their A game as well. Both teams exhibited such great talent. We laughed, we cried (from laughter), and all the parents, students, and coaches had an excellent time. A special thanks to our coach, Mr. Tom Clark who took our team to victory that night. We ended the match with a farewell to teammate and VT Junior, Benjamin Teman, who moved out of state this week. We will miss him on the team (and at school) as his creativity and personality are inspiring.

Thursday, in our Design and Innovation class, students were wrapping up their work on their Rube Goldberg Machines.

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If you are not familiar with these machines, they are basically complicated mechanisms to accomplish a simple task. FUN! The goal of this unit was to focus on creativity, engineering and collaboration and this group has done a fantastic job. I am also happy to report there have been no injuries despite the use of power tools!

At the end of the day, these three examples are only a small sampling of the creativity and innovation that happens in and out of the classrooms at Valley Torah daily. I am so proud of the students and staff who have worked so hard to understand and embrace the need for passion-based learning integrating into a strong academic model of teaching and learning. It has not always been easy, but we have come so far, and I am grateful for our gifted teachers, students, and parents who have supported the growth in this area.

I want to wish the Wolfpack good luck tomorrow night on their playoff game against Pasadena Marshall and leave you with a MEME from an English Class assignment. The students had to create a MEME based on their reading of Mice and Men. Enjoy and Good Shabbos!

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