The Boiling Point

‘Formative figure’ of the just community

Zev Hurwitz, Editor-In-Chief

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After 16 years, a doctorate, 500 Town Halls and almost as many pupils, veteran History teacher Dr. Jill Beerman said goodbye to teaching at Shalhevet and will serve as an off-campus consultant next year.

For the past few years, Dr. Beerman served as faculty advisor for the school’s Agenda Committee as well as the official head of the Just Community. In that capacity she worked to steer Town Halls toward discussions that would advance students’ moral growth.

Sticking to her Shalhevet focus, Dr. Beerman wrote her 2008 dissertation at NYU on the effects of using moral development training – like the moral dilemma exercises at Shalhevet.

She taught American History and AP U.S. History, often using interactive activities and simulations in her class – most famously her “stock market game,” in which students would emulate 1920’s stock traders to learn about the effects of the crash of 1929 and its effects on the economy.

She was also the History Department chair through 2009-10, helping set curriculum and hiring teachers.

Principal Phu Tranchi said that Dr. Beerman had been influential to him and to the whole community during her teaching career here.

“She was a formative figure in the Just Community,” said Principal Phu Tranchi. “When I came to Shalhevet she was already regarded as an iconic teacher. I was drawn to her to seek advice when I wanted to improve and become a better teacher.”

When it was announced she would no longer be teaching, Dr. Beerman – known to many as “Dr. J” – was praised for her relationship with students and the lasting impact she had.

“I love the way Dr. Beerman taught with liveliness and attitude,” said senior Ezra Schwarcz, who took AP U.S. History last year.

“She was just as valuable to me outside the classroom as she was inside. I remember feeling very comfortable debating constitutional law while in a Judiciary Committee on a Princeton debate trip.”

“Dr. J was a fascinating teacher, well versed in all aspects of the courses she taught,” agreed junior Leah Katz. “I loved being in her class.”

Dr. Beerman was honored last March at what was estimated to be her 500th Town Hall.  She was wheeled into the Beit Midrash by senior boys, wearing a crown for the occasion.

Whether she will head for 600 now is a question. Her title will be “moral development research fellow” and she will not have an office on campus.

“I don’t know if I’ll be attending Town Hall next year,” Dr. Beerman said in an e-mail.  “I haven’t discussed it yet with Rabbi Segal.”

But she said she has already seen a lot of democratic activity over the years.

“I doubt anyone other than members of Congress or obsessive C-SPAN watchers has seen more democracy in action than I have,” Dr. Beerman said.

This year, Dr. Beerman introduced an American Studies course, which combined American history and English writing skills. The course was an experimental 10th grade honors track.

Dr. Beerman said she would most miss students and colleagues but also the chance to apply moral development lessons in a classroom setting.

“I loved the discussions in class about moral issues and how they apply to real life because we all have times in our lives when we have important decisions to make,” she said. “Like any other skill in life, moral reasoning requires practice if you’re to do it well.”

 

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Meet the Writer
Zev Hurwitz, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

After serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Boiling Point in 2010-11 school year, Zev went on to UC San Diego where he was Editor-in-Chief of the campus paper, The Guardian.  He is currently the Goldman Bridge ACCESS Fellow of the American Jewish Committee in Los Angeles.

At the Boiling Point, Zev served as Opinion Editor and Torah Editor before taking over as EIC.  He played varsity basketball at Shalhevet and also served as chair of the Just Community's Constructive Consequences Committee.



 

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‘Formative figure’ of the just community