I grew up with her own literacy learning challenges; reading never came easy. While my siblings read books cover to cover, I remember trying to piece together stories using only the pictures. I remembers my second-grade teacher’s shocking reaction when I couldn’t read the word ‘the’. Spelling tests caused me lots of anxiety and frustration, as I would study and study only to forget how to spell the words the next minute. I was never able to complete the reading assignments for school even though I was interested in the material. I failed the English Regents in high school and I failed her first English college exam.
I only discovered my passion for reading and literacy learning as an adult after college. I empathizes with the struggles of children going through the same experience I had. My struggle became my passion! I I find lots of pleasure in identifying and applying solutions that help children succeed in learning to read Hebrew and English.
As a young girl, I dreamed of becoming a designer. It was sort of an “accident” that I pursued a masters’ degree in Special Education at Daemen College and earned a license to practice special education in NY State under the DOE. I thought it was a temporary pathway only to be used to finance a career in design. But when I taught a struggling first-grade student how to read, I found so much meaning and inspiration. Without realizing it, I discovered a deep curiosity that has captivated me ever since.
I received advanced literacy training from Columbia University, Bankstreet College, Lindamood Bell, and Orton Gillingham approaches such as PAF and Wilson. Learning more and more about literacy instruction, and applying new insights and tools to my practice with children was incredibly rewarding and eye-opening.
While learning about dyslexia, I began to realize that I have a clear dyslexic profile. I struggled to learn to read, I read slowly, and I have a hard time spelling. This naturally helps me have endless curiosity and patience with my students because I truly relate to them. I know the pain and I know the joy. With my own challenges in phonological and symbol processing, I understand why reading and writing can be hard.
Drawing on my experiences and professional training as a classroom teacher, special education coordinator, graduate-level professor of reading, and mom of six, I felt ready to blend academic structure with a nurturing sensitivity to open Scenic Route Literacy, an English literacy intervention clinic in Crown Height, Brooklyn. The purpose was to be able to reach more children outside of my school-based tutoring profession.
I continued working with learners to figure out why they might be struggling with literacy acquisition, then used an array of resources and strategies to design, implement and lead interventions that would allow the learners to reach grade expectation in the most enjoyable and efficient way possible.
Interestingly, as parents were hearing about the English literacy clinic, many were asking for Hebrew literacy support too. Quickly, I stepped up to answer these families’ needs and made the decision to provide Hebrew interventions too.
After more than a decade immersed in English instruction, I came to Hebrew instruction armed with insight and training in the literacy learning process. Obviously, this instruction was different as it had an added component. I wasn’t just teaching literacy, I was teaching Torah.
After extensive exploration, I curated and created a collection of decodable activities for words, sentences, and stories, with a lot of picture supports, and used them in conjunction with the traditional method for Kriah. The results were beautiful. Changes were seen in children’s reading behaviors faster than expected. Children experienced leaps and bounds of success in a matter of weeks. Their sudden love for reading and their ability to meet expectations amazed their parents and teachers.
I made it my mission to share this success with as many children, parents and educators even beyond my Brooklyn-based clinic. I wanted to demonstrate how a language-based approach to Hebrew literacy is feasible and worthwhile but sharing these practices were complex. One had to understand the big picture and all the details of the literacy learning process, assemble pieces from tens of places, and then implement these systems while progress monitoring, troubleshooting and navigating through lots of parts. We needed to make this easier for everyone!
When it comes to English literacy, there are mountains of research, standards, online communities, textbooks, published programs, and blogs available for new teachers and experienced clinicians. This is a stark contrast to what is available for Lashon Hakodesh/ Hebrew literacy, or Kriah.
While there are a handful of educators who are scientifically exploring how to teach Hebrew as a foreign language, and those who are trying to deliver instruction that follows the science of reading, there hasn’t been an easy system for educators to follow. Figuring out how to teach all kinds of learners and finding materials to do so was daunting. I believed that we could create a system that is accessible and easy for everyone.
I wanted all parents and educators to have the ability to easily teach all kinds of learners in an enjoyable and successful way the first time they tried. I wanted a curriculum where children can experience the rush of joy when they successfully read a story that they understand. To do so, we needed a series of lessons and materials that would build skills gradually from step to step. In the summer of 2021, we decided to take the plunge and build this Hebrew literacy dream curriculum.
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