More than 150 special education professionals from South Florida, Daytona Beach and Atlanta attended the first-ever Florida Yachad special education conference on Tuesday, Jan. 6 at the South Florida Jewish Academy in Coconut Creek.
Yachad, The National Jewish Council for Disabilities is a thriving global organization dedicated to addressing the needs of all Jewish individuals with disabilities and ensuring their inclusion in every aspect of Jewish life.
Every year, Yachad holds a yearly special education conference in the New York/New Jersey area, but there hadn’t been one in South Florida until this year.
Sensing a local need, Denise Herschberg, director of Florida Yachad, worked closely with Batya Jacob, Yachad’s director of educational support services, to bring a similar program to South Florida this year.
These efforts resulted in the Jan. 6 conference, which was titled: “Supporting all Diverse Learners in the Classroom.” The conference was run by Yachad’s International Jewish Resource Center for Inclusion Special Education division.
Herschberg said: “Understanding the need of continuing education to ensure that our educators are learning the most up-to-date, cutting edge approaches, Yachad is committed to providing conferences throughout the school year.
“For the first time, we were able to bring the program to South Florida educators and the overwhelming response verified that these programs are essential within our community. We look forward to planning future educational opportunities for our local Jewish community.”
Baila Gansburg, executive director of South Florida Jewish Academy — an inclusive K-12 school catering to children with all different learning differences — was thrilled to have hosted the conference.
Gansburg said: “There could not have been a better place to have the first special education conference in South Florida. Our new building at South Florida Jewish Academy we recently purchased was the ideal place to hold this conference.”
The keynote speaker for the conference was Rick Lavoie — author, filmmaker, educator and lecturer — who served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years.
Other workshop presenters were Henna Englander, elementary school coordinator at Torah Academy of Boca Raton; Gansburg; Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, independent Jewish education consultant; Jacob; Kathy Johnson, education consultant with Premier Education Solutions CMI Education Institute; Jeffrey Lichtman, international director of Yachad; and Shari Silverstein, director of professional development at the Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education in Broward County.
Local educators were thrilled with the conference.
Noted Penina Dorfman, Hillel Day School of Boca Raton‘s school psychologist: “We had twelve faculty and staff members attend the conference. Our faculty was so full of appreciation and excited to start using the new teaching strategies that they learned in their classrooms. We all felt inspired and look forward to future Yachad conferences.”
Added Nili Davis, director of the Or Gadol Special Needs Department at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach: “We sent four staffers to the conference, each of whom found the lectures to be extremely educational, stimulating and thought-provoking. It was a wonderful opportunity to network with other professionals interested in inclusion within Jewish education and allowed us to learn from those who have a vast range of knowledge about inclusion in both formal and informal educational settings. Due to this opportunity from Yachad, we will be able to carry out what was learned throughout all of our programs.”
Said Danielle Ockman, dean of students at the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy in Palm Beach Gardens: “Our teachers and administrators really enjoyed the conference. It is always wonderful to gather with educational colleagues and remind ourselves of why we do what we do. Rick Lavoie was inspirational with his storytelling and reminder that all children and adults learn differently. It is our job as educators to help find the keys to open the door. We have already begun sharing in division meetings what we learned from the multiple workshops we each attended.”
Many conference attendees are hoping this conference now becomes an annual yearly program in South Florida.
For more information about the conference, or Florida Yachad, contact Herschberg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-306-5872.
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