Creating a Culture of Inclusion in our Schools

By Rebecca Wanatick, Manager, Community Inclusion and Program Services

group photoThe first week in May brought to a close the Matan Institute of Greater MetroWest, a year-long educational initiative for local congregational religious school teachers and directors. This program was designed to provide participants with concrete tools and strategies for reaching all students and including children with disabilities in Jewish education. We are so proud to have 19 educators, representing 9 congregational schools, complete their year of learning together. 

When the Matan cohort began its journey this past September, the educators were eager to learn new skills to bring to their classrooms, with the hopes of better supporting children with diverse learning needs. Over the course of the year, they participated in five full days of in-person training, three webinars, and monthly mentorship from professionals in the field. Each school worked with their mentor to set and further individual inclusion goals for their schools. 

As the year-long initiative wrapped up, educators had the opportunity to share their progress with the group. Teams of educators from each school worked together to develop a presentation and shared their accomplishments. Some examples of their work in furthering their culture of inclusion include:  developing professional development for their own staff, utilizing new curriculum to better support students, introducing sensory strategies into classrooms, developing new registration materials, using madrichim in a different manner, and identifying new ways to engage families with disabilities in Jewish life in the synagogue. Educators benefitted from sharing with one another. One educator said, “It was helpful to own up to our challenges… it helped us to understand how to set goals.”

Feedback from participants throughout the year has been so important to Greater MetroWest ABLE and our funders. One director shared, “The networking through the Matan Institute has been powerful, and we can now reach out to one another as needs arise.” Another educator shared, “The leadership of Matan has helped us grow true and authentic inclusion in our school, working towards helping all students have the tools to raise each other up through personal/individual strengths.”

We are so fortunate to have such dedicated Jewish educators in our community! Greater MetroWest ABLE is grateful for the opportunity to offer this program in our community thanks to a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ, as well as funding from our Federation and the Lester Z. Leiberman Special Needs Fund.

For more information on this and other inclusion programs in Greater MetroWest visit the Greater MetroWest ABLE website or contact Rebecca Wanatick at (973) 929-3129 or metrowestABLE@jfedgmw.org.