NEW TEACHERS 23-24: Khalil, Skaist, Bradshaw

NEW TEACHERS 23-24: Khalil, Skaist, Bradshaw
New teacher Mr. Khalil relates science to everyday life
TEACHING: Mr. Justin Khalil stands in front of the whiteboard for a picture after teaching his 10th grade Honors Chemistry class on Nov. 20. (Ella Hoenig)

Growing up in Seal Beach with an older brother and older sister, new Chemistry teacher Mr. Justin Khalil was never around science, but from a young age he was always excited about math.

It was not until high school that the world of science came into view.  Through his high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Tim Jones, Mr. Khalil felt empowered about doing well in chemistry.  

“In my sophomore year of high school – the same age as my current chemistry students – I had a really, really inspiring chemistry teacher who I connected with a lot,” said Mr. Khalil, whose father was a rug dealer and his mother an antique dealer.

 “I fell in love with chemistry through his class,” he said, “and I really enjoyed the demonstrations that he did.  I thought they were really cool.”

Today he tries to promote that coolness partly through his Youtube channel, “Hip Science,” where he explains topics in science and raps about them, which he enjoys very much.

“I think that one of my strengths as a teacher is being able to make my information relatable to students,” said Mr. Khalil. “And I also try to connect topics to things in everyday life as much as possible.”

He graduated as valedictorian from among 770 students at Los Alamitos High School, then attended Cornell University in New York state, studying chemical engineering. He then worked as a data analyst. 

After about a year, he said,”I was missing my passion for science and teaching. So then I became a teacher. I really enjoy helping people understand difficult concepts and making them easy to understand.”

Mr. Khalil described his discovery of chemistry as similar to learning a new language.

I try to incorporate a lot of demonstrations and exciting demonstrations that involve fire, explosions, or things that are entertaining.

— Mr. Justin Khalil

“It wasn’t just like a math class or a science class, but I saw it as a language class as well,” said Mr. Khalil. “And as I unlocked this new language, it helped me see the world through a new lens. And that was exciting for me.”

This is his sixth year as a teacher.  For the past three years Mr. Khalil taught at WISH Academy Charter School in the Westchester area.

He’s now teaching Chemistry, Honors Chemistry and Chemistry of Everyday Life teacher at Shalhevet. He hopes to help his Shalhevet students to see the world through the eyes of science.

“I try to always put an emphasis on making it fun,” he said. “So I try to incorporate a lot of demonstrations and exciting demonstrations that involve fire, explosions, or things that are entertaining.” 

He said his classes would be a mixture of lab experiments, demonstrations, notes, worksheets, and tests, and that students should expect to work hard and be respectful along with having fun and connecting topics to everyday life.

In his free time, Mr. Khalil enjoys various physical activities including going on walks with his dog, traveling with his wife, and spending time at the beach and surfing, along with fitness and exercise.

Former Shalhevet Tanach teacher is new Shalhevet art teacher
RETURNEE: In her years away from Shalhevet, Ms. Skaist had two children and also honed her art skills. “It’s exciting to come back to teach after a bunch of years away,” she said. (Ella Hoenig)

Ms. Ruthie Skaist, who taught Judaic Studies at Shalhevet from 2011 to 2016, has returned this year as a member of the Art faculty, teaching a one-semester, once-a-week art course to ninth-graders along with SAS Art, which is a full-course elective for 11th- and 12th-graders.

She taught Tanach and Jewish History, including all grades, until 2016, but she said she doesn’t feel an especially drastic difference teaching art. 

“Some things are really the same,” said Ms. Skaist. “Just being a teacher – it’s exciting to come back to teach after like a bunch of years away, and I am really excited to get back into education… There’s certain things that I don’t feel are different at all, like just the way that the classroom is run and my personality in a classroom or the way that I run a class, doesn’t feel so different.”

In the interim years, Ms. Skaist had two children, worked as a professional artist and moved to Istanbul, Turkey, for two years to work for the Joint Distribution Company. When she moved back to Los Angeles, she taught art to children ages four to eight.

Ms. Skaist said one of her main goals as an art teacher is to change the way her students think about art, and the way they think in other contexts as well. 

“The number one goal within our class in general is to help students expand their creative thinking and creative mind,” said Ms. Skaist. “To look at something and think, okay, this is how I would normally do it – what’s a different way?”

Once you get home it feels really important to me to be able to just, like, be home, and do other things and have space and time for yourself.

— Ms. Ruthie Skaist

At Shalhevet, she plans to focus on the success of her students, as well as communication between teacher and student and making sure that the class remains enjoyable. 

“My classes are about my students, not about me,” Ms. Skaist said. “The way I see it, there’s no place for teacher ego, certainly in the classroom. And so, I’m here really to help my students to try to achieve their goals.”

As an artist herself, Ms. Skaist has worked in many different media, and especially portrait painting. Since taking a college course at Otis College, she has worked more with abstract pieces.

“Honestly, it wasn’t even a class.” Ms. Skaist said. “It was, in my mind, a space to go and paint exactly what I wanted to paint, which was oil painting portraits, which was awesome.”

However, when she told her instructor that she wasn’t interested in working with acrylic paint or doing abstract work, he pushed her to try both.

“And it kind of changed my life, which is so wild, and changed my practice a lot, my art practice.”

Ms. Skaist said that she is firm on in-class deadlines, but she does not give homework.

During art class, she said, students shouldn’t feel “bogged down by their experience of creating our work.”

“I think being in school for the amount of hours that everybody’s in school, having all the co-curriculars that everyone’s involved in…” Ms. Skaist said, “I think once you get home it feels really important to me to be able to just like, be home, and do other things and have space and time for yourself.”

New counselor Ms. Bradshaw sees college counseling as long-term planning
SWITCH: After studying English and interning in book publishing, Ms. Camille Bradshaw decided to work in college admissions. (Ella Hoenig)

Ms. Camille Bradshaw, Shalhevet’s new Associate Director of College Counseling and Academic Guidance, originally planned to work in the book publishing industry, but she decided that that industry was too aggressive for her.

Though it had been her ambition throughout her college years as an English and Narrative Studies major at USC, two internships at the book publishing agency Gold Line changed her mind.

“The business itself felt a little bit cutthroat,” said Ms. Bradshaw, who replaced Ms. Priyanka Singh. 

Instead, she turned to college counseling and admissions and became a senior assistant director in the Office of Admission at her alma mater, USC. She cited her academic advisor in college, Mr. Tim  Gauther, who had found her the two publishing internships, as an inspiration. 

“I wanted to help students find out what they wanted to do, just like my advisor did for me,” Ms. Bradshaw said.

Ms. Bradshaw looks at college counseling as a way of helping students to find their unique path in life.

“It’s also about considering all the paths that they have and picking the one that is best for them,” she said. “I think of it as a really individualized way of looking at future plans.”

But she knows it can be upsetting as well.

“I know how stressful this process can be for students,” Ms. Bradshaw said. “It’s getting harder for students to get into colleges. I’m looking to help support students and families … with getting into the colleges and schools they’re passionate about.”

Outside of school, Ms. Bradshaw enjoys reading, especially by the water; mystery novels such as Sherlock Holmes are her favorites. Her childhood in Oregon gave her a love of nature and the outdoors, and she is looking forward to finding good hikes in the LA area.

Ms. Bradshaw also loves traveling, and she hopes to eventually travel to all 50 states.

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