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Friday, August 28, 2015

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From Jewish day school to Hong Kong and back

Tags: Jewish learning
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TORONTO — Shoshana Chaim spent two years teaching in Hong Kong before returning to Toronto in 2007.

Shoshana Chaim, seen in her classroom at Leo Baeck’s south campus, wants her students to become thinkers. [Frances Kraft photo]

Chaim – whose surname is pronounced like “chain” but with an “m” at the end – teaches a class of 21 full-day senior kindergarten students at Leo Baeck Day School’s south campus, housed at Holy Blossom Temple.

From 2002 to 2005, she taught at Bialik Hebrew Day School, pioneering its full-day senior kindergarten program, and also serving as a grade 7 and 8 basketball and volleyball coach.

The 30-year-old Montreal native has always enjoyed spending time with children, she told The CJN. When she was younger, she babysat, tutored and worked at summer camp.

“There’s something exciting about seeing kids learning something for the first time,” said Chaim, who has a one-year-old son.

A graduate of McGill University’s education program, Chaim left Montreal in 2002, the year she married her husband Adam, now a physical education teacher at the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s northern campus. They met in Montreal, coaching basketball together when he was a student teacher and she was a Marianapolis College student.

A member of a women’s hockey team with a background in martial arts, Chaim co-owns a fitness-related business called Target Trainers with her husband. Both are certified as personal trainers.

The Hong Kong stint “kind of fell in our lap,” she recalls.  “We had a house, we had a dog, we had great jobs. We gave everything up to go experience the world.”

The couple worked at at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong, where a friend had told them of job availabilities. Adam taught physical education and Shoshana taught “preparatory,” a class with children of senior kindergarten age.

She found that, despite some similarities, there were cultural differences and values among the families of her students.

Because of that, she said, she takes more things into consideration when dealing with individual situations. “Not every student is the same. I think I’m much more sensitive to that.”

She strives to maintain a “compassionate but strict” attitude in the classroom. Also, she added, “I like to think that I’m fun. Children need to learn through play and through fun. They need to see school as exciting.”

Chaim often uses music to convey information, putting her message to a familiar tune.

Recently, she had her students put together an “All About Me” project, collecting items that represent who they are.

A key goal of the endeavour was getting the students to ask questions, she said. Because Leo Baeck – like the school in Hong Kong – uses International Baccalaureate teaching methods, there is an emphasis on getting students to ask meaningful questions to help them understand more about the subject they’re studying, Chaim said. “We get them to be thinkers and inquirers.”


A lesson from the teacher: “When you take risks and allow yourself to experience unique situations, you’re going to enrich your present and also your future.”

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