English Teachers Extend Reach to Israeli Children

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

This summer marked the second year that American English teachers embarked on a five-week journey to the Holy Land to educate children from varying socioeconomic and religious backgrounds.

The Israel Program for Excellence in English, or TALMA, was first created through the collective vision of Israel’s Ministry of Education, the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, and the Schusterman Family Foundation to diminish social chasms among Israeli children, introduce American educational strategies to Israeli educators, and provide cultural understanding to visiting English teachers.

This summer, TALMA invited just eighty English teachers from the United States to attend the program. During their visit, each English teacher teamed up with a local Israeli educator to provide interactive language development activities for students in grades 1-4. TALMA officials handpicked foreign English teachers for this unique program based on their formal education, professional experience, and sincere curiosity for the Israeli culture.

As it exists now, Israeli boasts sixteen TALMA schools located in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and over fifty other municipalities. However, upon witnessing the educational impact that TALMA made in the last two years alone, the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat has expressed great intent for program expansion. If all goes well, next year TALMA will also cater to fifth and sixth graders.

Not surprisingly, American English teachers continually claim that they, and not the Israeli children, are the ones that truly benefit from the TALMA experience. English teachers continually discovered new approaches, classroom management options, and coping devices within the classroom to advance professional progression.

However, most educators felt that the true reward came from learning to abandon more singular, structured lesson plans and embrace a more collaborative, creative, and relaxed style of teaching. By doing so, many English teachers learned to successfully push through language barriers and forge more profound connections with their students. As a result, not only are English teachers able to apply these new outlooks back home, but also allow low-income Israeli children the opportunity to pursue more advantageous lives.