Ashley Davenport is a preschool teacher Gan Keshet Jewish Community Preschool. There, she is in her second year with Kitah Chamaniah, the Sunflower Class, also serving as the Gan Keshet Outdoor Classroom Coordinator. As a teacher at Gan Keshet, she works to weave together a play-based, child-led curriculum with a focus on the Jewish community and its values, while conjointly nurturing connections between food, farm, family. Along with outdoor/ farm and Jewish education, she has a background in visual art, yoga, and herbalism. She is looking forward to bringing music, art, and outdoor exploration to the ALMA K’tana (Small Word) program this fall.
Emily was born and raised in New York City, and came to Western Massachusetts for college. After college, she spent 15 years living, working, and studying in different cities in the Northeast and Northwest United States, as well as Montreal, before returning to Massachusetts and settling in Northampton with her family. Emily found her place as an adult in the Jewish community during her years in Portland, Maine, and began teaching Judaics to fourth graders there. A few years and moves later, just weeks after arriving in Northampton, a chance meeting between Emily and Rabbi Jacob led to finding a home at CBI and teaching at ALMA.
Emily is most at home exploring and discussing big ideas, and working to find personal meaning in shared experiences. This, combined with her love of creating art and tinkering with process mean that her classroom is a place of serious discussion and “prayer through making”–mindful art-making as a way of exploring Jewish practices and ideas. Emily’s approach is informed by her study of constructivist education with Eleanor Duckworth (a protegée of Piaget) while obtaining her Masters degree in Education, and involves a lot of direct interaction with Jewish texts, as well as supporting students in articulating what they believe, and how Judaism and Jewish practices are relevant and meaningful in their own lives. This year, the Ilanot class will be building upon last year’s exploration of prayer to develop familiarity and fluency with many of the prayers in the Shabbat morning service, craft personal responses to/reflections on tefillot, and craft their own personal siddurim. As the class continues its exploration of the tools in our Jewish spiritual toolbox, students will have opportunities to further develop their connection to communal prayer, as well as enrich their personal understanding of and relationship with the text of the siddur.More staff bios coming soon! Meanwhile, please reach out to CBI and ALMA for more information.
Molly Bajgot is from the Boston area, born and raised in Sudbury, Massachusetts. She has spent time in the Pioneer Valley, gaining a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2014 where she studied critical pedagogy, community organizing, and food justice. Since graduating, she has been a leader in her Boston-based Jewish community, the Moishe Kavod House, as an organizing, song, and ritual leader. Today she is back in Northampton to pursue massage school, community organizer, and to be with all of you! As an educator she believes in centering students experiences in the classroom, and thinking beyond the surface of an idea to understand their root causes and challenging traditional ideas. Her goals for the year with Rimonim students are to encourage creativity and self exploration in their projects, and to enhance meaning in their B’nai mitzvahs: life-transition ceremonies. She is really looking forward to getting to know students and their families, and becoming part of the CBI community!
Lizzy Cantor is a former outdoor educator (including Teva!) who has reformed into a classroom teacher. She currently teaches science, and includes as many labs as possible. Her favorite things about middle schoolers are the questions and insights they bring into the classroom, along with their willingness to play and explore. She believes in the value of discussion, giving students the opportunity to think about what is important to them and make sense of their world. This year, she hopes to instill her students an appreciation of how Judaism and the Earth are connected, as well as maintain a strong, positive relationship with the Jewish Community.
Originally from Southern California, Elanit moved to Northampton MA in 2007 with her husband Eitan and daughter Amalya. As a child Elanit was actively involved in a Jewish youth movement, attended Herzl Jewish Day School in Los Angeles, and spent two years of High School in Israel. Elanit has a Masters of Family Therapy and spent many years working at a Jewish residential treatment center for addiction. She also serves on the board of the Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton MA.
Nili Simhai serves as the Director of Outdoor Education for Abundance Farm. Nili served as the Director of Teva, a leading Jewish environmental education organization, for fourteen years. A recipient of the Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Nili has been recognized for her leadership in training and counseling hundreds of educators in the tenets of Jewish environmental education. One of her current passions is outdoor classrooms in Jewish institutions.