Solomon Schechter Academy
Solomon Schechter Academy lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning and instills an unbridled passion for excellence and Conservative Jewish traditions.
Montreal’s Solomon Schechter Academy was founded in 1969. Today, the elementary school has an enrollment of 600 co-ed students spanning from Junior Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6. The trilingual curriculum is integrated in all three departments – English, French and Hebrew – to form a well balanced approach to learning.
Solomon Schechter concentrates on the needs and growth of its students in order to foster a lifelong love for and commitment to learning. The Academy’s educational process is a vibrant partnership between students, parents and educators.
Steven Erdelyi , Principal of Solomon Schechter, says the goal of an education at the school is to develop students that are “critical thinkers, to be dynamic while respecting the traditions of the past.”
A Legacy of Excellence
For over 30 years, Head of School Dr. Shimshon Hamerman has led the Solomon Schechter Academy down a path of excellence. Drawing inspiration from his principal emeritus, Rosa Finestone, Hamerman has dedicated his life to the promotion and nurturing overseeing of superior elementary Conservative Jewish educations.
Dr. Hamerman joined Solomon Schechter in 1981 as Vice Principal. He served diligently under Finestone, and developed an ever-deepening love of teaching and guidance. In 1992, he accepted the role of Principal and Head of School. Hamerman adopted Finestone’s “culture of excellence,” taking on a leadership role with a team of committed teachers and administrative staff.
Under Hamerman’s direction, Solomon Schechter undertook several positive initiatives. He oversaw the purchasing of the adjacent building and its conversion into a pre-school learning location. The Amiel Early Childhood Centre, named after a family who greatly assisted in its development, offers Jewish learning in English, Hebrew and French to Junior Pre Kindergaren, Pre Kindergarten and Kindergarten age children.
The Amiel Early Childhood Centre is fully air conditioned and newly renovated. The facility houses a preschool library, gym, playground, theater centre and 80 of the youngest Academy family members.
This freeing of space in the main facility allowed for the creation of a new learning area entitled the “SMART Floor.” This area, further described below, provides elementary students with an above-par educational experience in often overlooked subjects.
“I’ve been here 33 years,” says Hamerman, “My life is here. I work lovingly. It always brings me pleasure. This is one of the few professions where you can truly see the difference you make every day.”
Today, Dr. Hamerman runs Solomon Schechter with his soon-to-be successor, Principal Steven Erdelyi. On May 29, 2014, Hamerman’s contributions will be celebrated at the Academy’s upcoming Gala in Montreal. Erdelyi will receive the duties associated with Head of School in September 2014.
Innovative Learning – SMART Floor
Solomon Schechter Academy’s latest addition, the SMART Floor, gives students the opportunity to learn skills not regularly taught in elementary school settings. Through offering complimentary programming in the realms of Science, Music, Art, Robotics, and Technology (Computer Animation), Solomon Schechter aims to give students a head-start for high school, university, and later careers. The SMART Floor courses offer technology & enrichment to the core curriculum supporting the students in reaching their full potential through new media.
The Arts sector of the SMART floor program involves student learning of Judaic religious teaching expressed through the arts. Judaic Studies are an important part of the curriculum. The love and support of the State of Israel are an integral part of the school’s program and are reflected in every area of the curriculum. This is accompanied by a strong emphasis on Hebrew proficiency. Students participate in varied programs that allow them to engage with the culture and music of the State of Israel.
According to Principal Erdelyi, Jewish heritage is spotlighted through the curriculum, by “linking” Jewish holidays and celebrations to the curriculum, which is the school’s “commitment to the Jewish heritage.” Each class in the school has a special Judaic Studies event in addition to conducting its own model Seder. The Academy also benefits from close proximity to and historic affiliation with the Shaare Zion Synagogue. Here, students can attend religious services and grow involved in their cultural community.
Experiential learning begins in the classroom every day with Solomon Schechter’s dynamic curriculum and teachers. The curriculum is designed to link school trips, exhibitions, book publishing, special visitors and a variety of theatre performances to each student’s academic development.
The three departments’ programs (English, French and Hebrew) are greatly embellished with at least one performance per class each year, to which parents, families and friends of students are invited. These performances enhance and enrich the learning process while giving the students an appreciation for their rich Jewish heritage.
The programs listed below are merely a glimpse into the many experiential programs offered at the Solomon Schechter Academy.
Bnot Sherut Program
In Israel, young women are given the opportunity to opt into community service in lieu of military service. Many choose to do this service abroad. These volunteers, known as Bnot Sherut, visit the Solomon Schechter Academy annually. The Solomon Schechter Academy welcomes these young women and appreciates their dedication. They help the school bring the spirit of Israel and Jewish Traditions through regular experiential activities.
Video Conferencing with AFIK, Solom Schechter’s sister school in Israel
As part of the SMART floor program, students in art classes are given the opportunity to learn with their peers across the world. These students work through video conferences with others attending AFIK, Solomon Schechter’s sister school in Beer Shevah, Israel.
Special Guests to Solomon Schechter Academy
Several times a year, English, French, and Hebrew storytellers, animators, and authors visit Solomon Schechter Academy to share their experiences and inspire educational growth. The visitations are organized through the school library and department Heads…
French Literacy through Livromagie
The Solomon Schechter French Department puts together an elaborate annual program celebrating French literacy. Students who read the most French books throughout the school year are rewarded with certificates and free dress days.
An Annual Grade 6 Trip to Israel
Each year, Grade 6 students are given the unique opportunity to see their academic experience come alive through an educational visit to Israel. Led by Dr. Hamerman, this excursion is one of the highlights of each student’s journey at Solomon Schechter Academy.
Raising Community Minded Children
Along with academic excellence, students at Solomon Schechter are, according to Principal Erdelyi, encouraged to be “community minded”, both at home and abroad. SSA students are encouraged at a very young age to learn about “Tzedakah” or charity. They raise money for local food bank programs and toy drives during the holidays. Along with that, older students are encouraged to volunteer in the community. Recently, Grade 6 students volunteered at a local workshop that employs adults with learning disabilities. They worked alongside the adults and got to see the people at work and how their donations helped out.
Along with local charities, students are encouraged to donate to world relief, such as the recent hurricane in the Philippines. They made a donation of $1,100 to the cause.
“It makes students aware of world issues” Erdelyi says. Many students use their own money from their allowances and the like for these donations.
Future Plans for the Solomon Schechter Academy
The average class size at Solomon Schechter ranges from 18 students at the pre-school level and 22 students at the upper levels. There are 60 teachers and 75 assistants along with a team of librarians and health professionals. From junior pre-Kindergarten through Grade 6, their classes are in Hebrew, English and French. All classes have at least one teaching assistant who provides individualized instruction per class to students.
Principal Erdelyi wants the school’s future plans to concentrate on science and technology, in particular, the field of robotics, to use the technology and to participate in science competitions.
As is stands, Solomon Schechter students excel in provincial math competitions. For the past five years, the Academy has had four out of five #1 finishes in Quebec’s QAMT (Quebec Association of Math Teachers) math competition.
Many parents are strongly involved in school activities. Several volunteer at the library, help plan school-wide and community celebrations, and sit on the Board of Trustees. The Solomon Schechter Home & School Association, a committee aimed at funding school initiatives, is comprised nearly entirely of dedicated parents.
When asked what he hoped graduates of Solomon Schechter will gain from their time at the school, Erdelyi says he hopes they will be “prepared for an ever-changing world and to be open minded to think critically” and to be able to face any challenges. Former students praise these skills, believing they were a core asset in their future academic and career success.
“At Solomon Schechter, we are always forward-thinking. We are creative and dynamic. We spark new initiatives in every field –Jewish and Secular… We encompass academic excellence.” –Dr. Shimshon Hamerman