Until now, Education Officers nearing the end of their service were offered programs to become teachers in middle- and high-schools but not in elementary schools.
“There is a shortage of teachers in elementary schools, which prompted Beit Berl to join forces with the Ministry of Education in order to encourage Education Officers to teach in lower grades,” explains Dr. Cahit Shaham, head of Beit Berl’s Primary Teacher Education Department. “Education Officers already have experience in the field of education. We want them to become educational innovators and we are training them to be entrepreneurs with 21st century skills,” she elaborates. The IDF not only endorses the initiative; it is collaborating with Beit Berl by recommending candidates for the program and enabling them to take time off from their positions in the army in order to study.
The first cohort consists of 27 Education Officers, most of whom will complete their army service within the next two years. The course began in early May, a bit later than originally scheduled due to the coronavirus lockdown, and will continue for three semesters. At the end, participants will receive teaching certificates and will be qualified to work in elementary schools throughout Israel. The group meets once a week at Beit Berl, abiding by Ministry of Health guidelines which require them to sit two meters (6 ft.) apart and wear face masks. In addition to the lectures on campus, one-third of the program entails hands-on training in elementary schools.
Amir Oscar, one of the participants, is excited about the opportunity to become an elementary school teacher following his release from the IDF. “When I heard about this program, I immediately felt drawn to it,” he says. “I have been involved with education in the army for many years. It’s amazing to now have the opportunity to use my skills to make an impact on young children. I am excited about my future profession.”
Dr. Shaham is equally enthusiastic about the new program, where lecturers and students exchange knowledge and experience. “Pedagogic discussions in class are fascinating. We are building a thinking community made up of our senior lecturers and these skilled and motivated participants,” she notes. Indeed, the program will undoubtedly bring the best and the brightest to Israel's youngest children.