Dr. Smith leaving high school to go back to college

Judaic Studies teacher to be an assistant dean at AJU’s graduate school


Ezra Fax

ALUMNA: Dr. Smith was valedictorian of Shalhevet’s class of 2004. She went on to college at Brandeis and recently received her Ph.D. from NYU.

By Clara Sandler, Torah Editor

        Part-time Judaic Studies teacher Dr. Sara Smith will move from high school to grad school next year, leaving her position as ninth grade Tanach teacher at Shalhevet to become assistant dean of the Graduate School for Jewish Education at American Jewish University in Bel Air.

       Dr. Smith, who graduated from Shalhevet in 2004 and completed her Ph.D. in Jewish Education at New York University just last month, announced May 4 that she would not be returning next year.  She joined the Judaic Studies faculty last fall, while completing her doctorate.

        “This position allows me to do a bunch of things that I’m interested in doing,” Dr. Smith said of her new position. “It will take me out of the classroom in that I won’t be teaching at a high school, but I will be in the classroom teaching graduate students a little bit, and also thinking about the direction of the program and recruiting people to be in the program as well.”

        Dr. Smith said that her Ph.D. showed her the importance of bridging the world of educational research with what teachers actually do in the classroom. She believes her position at AJU will let her work to bridge that gap.

        “There’s a lot of innovation, research and thought in the academic world of education and Jewish education,” Dr. Smith said. “Where I’m going is a really great opportunity for me… But I also am sad that I have to leave.”

        Students said they enjoyed her class.

       “She’s a nice person, she’s a nice teacher,” said freshman Maya Schapira. “She connects the dots a lot, I learn a lot of lessons in her class.”

        Talia Cohen said students could tell how much Dr. Smith likes her subject.

       “It’s clear that she put a lot of effort into her lessons and she cares about the subject,” said Talia.

        Dr. Smith said she hopes to be able to retain her relationship with Shalhevet as both an alumna and as a dean at AJU.

        “I’d like to keep tabs on what’s going on … and hopefully be involved in some capacity with the school in an informal way,” she said. “In my new position, one of the things that’s going to be important is for me to have relationships with schools and to know what’s going on with day schools in LA.”