Westwood-Century City Patch talked to Rabbi Laurence Scheindlin about his years as headmaster of Sinai Akiba Academy. Scheindlin announced plans to retire at the end of this school year. Click here to read the first part of this story.
“[The Conservative movement] believes that Judaism is strong enough to stand up to the hardest questions that you can ask. So there is no question that is off-bounds and you can come to your own conclusions. We think in the end you’re going to realize that Judaism has the answers.”
There are now 550 students in Sinai Akiba Academy in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, plus 150 more in the pre-school. Scheindlin has overseen two expansions of the facilities, one about 15 years ago when the temple constructed two new buildings, and another five years ago when the third and fourth floors were completely gutted and modernized in an extreme makeover that was completed in just eight months.
The academy now houses three gymnasiums, including one on the roof, libraries, computer labs, art and science rooms, all of which are pictured in the photo gallery. Faculty offices include resource rooms for learning specialists, another innovation under Scheindlin’s leadership.
“One of the things that I’m very proud of is our learning support program that allows us to work with children with mild to moderate learning problems,” he said. “We’ve got a model program.”
Those experts work with classroom teachers to develop curricula, support materials and approaches to assure the success of students challenged with learning difficulties. Such children would not have been able to pursue studies at the academy before the 15-year-old program was available.
“And at the other end we’ve got people who are working on developing materials for gifted students so that we can challenge and stimulate those kids,” Scheinlin added.
The collaboration on curricula and learning strategies by the entire faculty for the benefit of each student is another aspect of the school that fills Scheindlin with satisfaction.
“It’s building a staff that really believes in kids and really believes in learning, the excitement of learning not only for kids but for themselves as well.”
He recognizes each teacher from kindergarten through eighth grade at every middle school graduation. “I always start out by saying it takes an entire faculty to educate a child.”
“Asked what he sees looking back, Scheindlin replies, “We now can demonstrate that day school graduates go on to wonderful colleges and wonderful careers and we have evidence that it really does make a difference in terms of their continued involvement in Jewish life later on.”
As for his own future, the rabbi will continue writing and publishing articles in his on field of specialty, his “avocation” as he describes it, the significance of emotions in both general and spiritual education. His articles have appeared in the International Journal Of Children’s Spirituality, Religious Education (Journal), and Journal Of Jewish Education.
“I’ve learned so much from my job,” Scheindlin reflected. “It’s just been a constant journey of learning. Learning about managing people, learning about education, learning about what really works in the classroom. And how fundamentally education is about what goes on in the interaction between two human beings, a teacher and a student.”
On Jan. 21, Sinai Akiba Academy will pay tribute to their retiring Head of School at a fundraising gala called "This is the School that Larry Built."
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