TORONTO — Leanne Silberberg grew up in a traditional Jewish home in Portland, Ore. – a city where she says “everything goes,” citing socks and sandals as an example.
“It’s an amazing, beautiful city,” the 22-year-old told The CJN. “We’re surrounded by the beach on one side, and the mountain on the other. Everything’s green, and it rains a lot, but it’s the price you pay for the beautiful scenery.”
Silberberg, who moved to Toronto in September, teaches Grade 4 at the Forest Hill Jewish Centre’s Temmy Latner Hebrew School, and also works part time at Bais Chomesh High School teaching algebra. As well, she volunteers at a speech pathology lab at the University of Toronto.
The oldest of three children of South African immigrants – her father is a doctor and her mother a teacher – Silberberg was born in Sudbury, Ont. She spent her early childhood in Hamilton, and has family in Thornhill as well as London.
A recent graduate of McGill University, where she completed a bachelor of arts and science degree in psychology and linguistics, Silberberg is now taking distance education courses in communication sciences and disorders. She hopes to begin a master’s degree in speech pathology next year.
Shortly after arriving in Toronto, Silberberg was hired by Rifky Karfunkel, principal of the Temmy Latner Hebrew School, after contacting her at the suggestion of mutual friends.
Karfunkel told The CJN that Silberberg is very creative in the classroom, using songs, rhymes and hands-on activity to impart lessons to her students.
“I try to make it hands-on for [the students],” Silberberg said. “When we were learning about Shabbat, I brought in challah dough, and we braided the challah dough.”
Songs and mnemonics help students remember the material, she added.
Silberberg attended Jewish day school in Portland until Grade 8. She became involved in NCSY, the youth movement of the Orthodox Union, once it came to Portland, and spent a year in Israel after high school. During her gap year, she divided her time between studies at Jerusalem’s Michlelet Esther and a leadership/travel program called Kivunim, which includes travel to countries such as India, Turkey and Greece to learn about Diaspora Jewry.
She’s always loved working with kids, she said. In Israel, she volunteered in a multicultural classroom, and in Montreal, she tutored linguistics and math, and worked as a teen youth group co-ordinator. Her experience in Portland included stints as an assistant teacher, a tennis coach and a nanny for her rabbi’s six children.
“I think you can learn so much from the way [kids] see the world.”
A lesson from the teacher: “The more you put into anything, the more you get out of it.”