Smiles and laughter, served with math

Justin Nemanpour

Talia Rotenberg, Staff Writer

“I am just naturally always talking with my hands, never standing still, have high energy and enthusiasm, etcetera,” Mr. Jonathan Gilbert told The Boiling Point last fall.

After 11 years at Shalhevet – most of them in the middle school, which closed last spring – Mr. Gilbert said goodbye at an emotional Town Hall June 2, where at least a dozen students lined up to praise him and Agenda Chair Toby Bern had to return all but two to their seats so they wouldn’t take up the rest of the period.

Also known simply as “G”, Mr. Gilbert will be remembered for an almost giddy enthusiasm, and for his personal closeness with many students. He is moving to Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, where he’ll teach middle school again.

“Mr. G has been a mentor for me over the passed four years,” said sophomore Esther Levy, who first had him as a teacher in middle school. “He’s been there for a lot of us when things have gotten rough.”

Rachel Memmi, a sophomore who now attends Beverly Hills High School, said Mr. G was an important part of making her experience great at Shalhevet.

“He was not just the most amazing teacher, but he was also someone to talk to,” said Rachel.

This year, Mr. G carried his big personality, experience and humor over to the high school. He shared with the high school students his corny jokes, silly puns and hyper attitude that made him so popular in the past.

When it was time to commemorate his contribution to Shalhevet, the line of speakers ready to praise him wound from the microphone to the other side of the room. Mr. G, characteristically hid in the back trying to avoid being the center of attention.

After a few students spoke and others came to sit with him, Mr. Gilbert admitted: “I quickly surrendered to the moment and embraced it.  It meant the world to me.  I really felt so much love and appreciation and it was a great way to ‘stamp’ that final memory deep inside my heart.”

One of just three Lower School teachers to stay on, Mr. Gilbert had worn many different hats at Shalhevet. For the first nine years he served as math teacher and department chair in the Middle School, and in 2009-10 he was assistant principal there.

He said he was attracted to Shalhevet 11 years ago by the “passion, sincerity, honesty and enthusiasm” of  founder and then-Head of School Dr. Jerry Friedman.

“I was sold,” Mr. Gilbert said, recalling his first meeting with Dr. Friedman.

Junior Rachel Lester, another of his past middle school students, made Mr. Gilbert a farewell video, giving many students whom didn’t get the opportunity to speak at Town Hall a chance to say goodbye.

“His smiles and laughs will be missed at Shalhevet,” said sophomore Maya Oz. “I wish him good luck in the future.”