Interview

Training for Yiddish Instructors Based in The Latest Pedagogy Research: An Interview with Asya Schulman and Sonia Bloom

Asya Schulman, Sonia Bloom and Jessica Kirzane

INTRODUCTION

In August 2018, just as I was begin­ning my cur­rent posi­tion as the coor­di­na­tor of the Yid­dish lan­guage pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, I had the great for­tune to be among the fif­teen instruc­tors who arrived at the Yid­dish Book Cen­ter for the Yid­dish Ped­a­gogy Pro­gram. The focus of this pro­gram was train­ing instruc­tors to teach begin­ner stu­dents of Yid­dish with In eynem, the Yid­dish Book Center’s com­mu­nica­tive lan­guage text­book which was then forth­com­ing. Learn­ing togeth­er with these instruc­tors about lan­guage ped­a­gogy, and being in a com­mu­ni­ty of teach­ers, was absolute­ly foun­da­tion­al for my con­fi­dence and skill as a lan­guage instruc­tor. I have spent many years now par­tic­i­pat­ing in, and admir­ing, the work that Asya Schul­man, Sonia Bloom, and the Yid­dish Book Cen­ter have done to keep lan­guage instruc­tors up-to-date on the lat­est in lan­guage ped­a­gogy. I recent­ly chat­ted via Zoom with Asya and Sonia about their vision for pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing, train­ing, and grow­ing the field of Yid­dish lan­guage instruc­tion. — Jes­si­ca Kirzane


Jessica Kirzane:

Let’s start with the basics. Will you talk a little bit about the various pedagogy programs that you run at the Yiddish Book Center?

Asya Schulman:

Sure. Right now our pedagogy programming consists of three primary components: the Yiddish Pedagogy Fellowship, the Yiddish Pedagogy Practicum, and Advanced Yiddish classes for Yiddish teachers.

Participants who successfully complete all three programs qualify for a Certificate in Yiddish Pedagogy.

The components of the Certificate are modeled on graduate courses in Master of Arts programs in Foreign Language Teaching, developed with the intent of providing Yiddish teachers with formal pedagogy training, connecting them with a network of educators in the mainstream language teaching community, and helping them increase their own language proficiency.

The Yiddish Pedagogy Fellowship is modeled on a graduate course that is usually called “Language Teaching Methods” and which is a core part of teacher training across the discipline. This online year-long course provides an introduction to theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and their application to Yiddish teaching. It consists of monthly readings, pre-recorded webinars, and written assignments that allow participants to discuss, respond to, and synthesize the readings.

Our primary textbook is Common Ground by Florencia Henshaw and Maris Hawkins. We also have readings from Communicative Language Teaching in Action by Klaus Brandl; While We’re on the Topic: BVP on Language, Acquisition and Classroom Practice by Bill VanPatten; and Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen by Bill VanPatten and James Lee. The written analysis assignments ask participants to look at particular pieces of Yiddish language curricula and analyze them according to the principles of what they’re learning in their readings and webinars. And there are active discussion boards where participants answer questions about the readings and the webinars and interact with each other to share experiences, questions, and ideas about language pedagogy with other Yiddish teachers, cementing the community and cohort aspects of the program. Three times a year, the Fellowship participants meet online for two days of full-group workshops, discussions, and lesson demos implementing the theories being studied.

The Yiddish Pedagogy Practicum provides funding for Yiddish teachers to attend professional development workshops, conferences, and seminars in the greater language learning field on topics that are of particular interest to them. It’s kind of like the next level, they learn more advanced topics than what was covered in the Fellowship. We have monthly meetings for the cohort in which participants present on the professional development seminars they attended. These presentations are in Yiddish, which creates a really interesting opportunity for us to collaboratively develop a Yiddish-language vocabulary for language pedagogy concepts. Participants also take turns doing lesson demos, in which they try to apply what they’re learning in the seminars to their Yiddish lesson planning. They then use these lessons in their actual classrooms, after receiving feedback from the workshop leaders and from their peers.

We run the Fellowship and the Practicum on an alternate year cycle. However, we’ve also started offering the Fellowship as an asynchronous program during the years that the Practicum is running. The asynchronous model allows participants to move at their own pace, which is important for people whose schedules are not as flexible, and for people in other time zones.

We also ran an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) familiarization workshop. This was an opportunity from ACTFL, which is the national professional organization for language teachers. We brought together a cohort of 15 Yiddish teachers with a representative from ACTFL who presented this material to us. We then held an additional debrief session with a consultant that we work closely with, SLA researcher and applied linguist Judith Liskin-Gasparro, who helped us think through how to apply these concepts more specifically to Yiddish teaching.

Jessica Kirzane:

I went through an OPI training at the Chicago Language Center, sitting in a room with people who teach more commonly taught languages. There are ways in which the training felt helpful, and ways in which it felt kind of alienating. I was sitting next to someone who teaches Haitian Creole and kept having sidebar conversations about how this could or could not be applicable in our circumstances. So I can see where having an opportunity to debrief with a community of Yiddish educators to think about how we can use it productively would be really helpful.

Asya Schulman:

Yes, exactly. It is good to have both the general presentation and the time to think about how we can take it back to our specific language’s circumstances.

The OPI training was actually initially proposed by our consultant, Judy, who suggested that introducing Yiddish teachers to ACTFL’s Proficiency Guidelines would help them think in new ways about bridging the gap between what their students know about language versus their ability to use language when communicating with others. Judy has been absolutely indispensable to our entire pedagogy project – she advises and mentors us on everything related to language pedagogy, from suggesting speakers and materials from the broader field of language acquisition to co-leading workshops to providing direct feedback to teachers.

So, back to our three primary programs. The third component, Advanced Yiddish for Yiddish Teachers, is a set of courses taught by expert Yiddish teachers in the field, such as Miriam Trinh, Rivke Margolis, and Tal Hever-Chybowski. They teach courses focused on active engagement and active production with the language. Many of the existing advanced Yiddish courses that are offered at other institutions are heavily reading-focused. Essentially, they tend to be literature courses in Yiddish. We wanted a different approach that incorporated a significant writing component and engagement with a variety of texts in various ways.

Jessica Kirzane:

How many instructors overall have been involved in the program?

Asya Schulman:

We had ten people complete the Fellowship last year. We had four teachers in the previous Practicum and five in this year’s Practicum. These programs evolved out of earlier versions, and in the previous iteration of the pedagogy program, we had 15 people in the first year and eight in the second year. So far, two people have successfully completed all three components and earned the Certificate: Adrien Smith and Moishele Alfonso.

Jessica Kirzane:

It sounds like the program is really going strong, already. Sonia, can you tell me about your background and how you got involved? What is your role in this pedagogy program?

Sonia Bloom:

My work at the Center began in 2021 as the Yiddish Education and Translation fellow. That year, I worked on both the Center’s translation initiatives and with Asya in the Yiddish Language Institute. Both areas drew on my experiences with and interests in teaching, independent publishing, and program development. I had worked as a bilingual Spanish-English museum educator in New York and have always been interested in how language learning can go hand in hand with history and cultural education, especially outside of a traditional school environment. I learned so much while working at the Yiddish Book Center as a fellow, assisting in the development and execution of our wide variety of programs. Since the conclusion of my fellowship year in 2022, I have stayed on staff as a Yiddish Education Specialist, and my role has grown to include contributing to curriculum development. I also periodically teach beginner Yiddish classes at the Center, which has been an amazing way to continue to hone our pedagogical materials and also to participate in the professional community that we are trying to build. It has helped me to anticipate how Yiddish teachers around the world might look to the Center for support and materials, and what questions might arise when they work with In eynem.

Asya Schulman:

I’ll just add that we are so excited and grateful that we were able to keep Sonia on for two additional years after her first fellowship year. It was very clear from as soon as we started working together that Sonia innately understood language pedagogy and could communicate with the students in a very natural and clear way. So it’s been wonderful to be able to work with her.

Jessica Kirzane:

And it sounds like you definitely need more than one person! There are a lot of moving pieces for these different programs.

I’d like to delve more into the whys of these programs. We published an interview with you a few years ago about the textbook In eynem, but now the textbook is part of this even bigger project of teacher training. So I’d like to hear: Why not just stop at a textbook? What is the need you’re trying to address by having a pedagogy program as well?

Why would Yiddish teachers need a pedagogy class in a Yiddish specific space?

Asya Schulman:

I strongly believe that so much of what we learn from the greater language teaching community is useful and can be applied to Yiddish.

Outside of the Haredi community, there is a tendency among Yiddish speakers and teachers to view the language as being beset by unique challenges or bound by wholly distinct linguistic or cultural criteria. This line of thinking holds Yiddish to a different standard whereby the language’s “uniqueness” obscures and sometimes actively disassociates it from general modes of teaching and pedagogy, saying, in short, that because Yiddish is somehow different, existing models don’t or can’t apply.

While it is true that Yiddish occupies a particular position, especially in the North American context, there is more that it has in common with what is referred to in this field as Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs). There is a whole body of resources out there specific to the needs of LCTL teachers that we Yiddish teachers can take advantage of.

This is why our programs draw from the broader field of pedagogy and language acquisition. From there, I can pick and choose what is most relevant to the needs of Yiddish teachers, making adaptations as necessary. There’s so much research being done in how to teach and learn languages in this scholarly community that we can benefit from and apply to our circumstances. We don’t have to invent the wheel ourselves.

Jessica Kirzane:

In some ways what you provide is what a language resource center might do at a university for its own instructors, but many of the instructors of Yiddish don’t have that kind of infrastructure, especially if they are teaching outside of academic environments.

Asya Schulman:

Exactly.

Jessica Kirzane:

Prior to this program, do you have a sense that Yiddish language instructors generally were not accessing that body of research or that body of practice?

Asya Schulman:

Our pedagogy programming at the Yiddish Book Center began in 2017 in conjunction with the beta release of In eynem. The textbook was not yet published, but we had an initial draft, and, since the textbook used the communicative approach, we wanted to make sure that teachers who were going to use the textbook knew what the communicative approach was all about and how they could best utilize the materials that we were providing them with in their classrooms. This first iteration of the pedagogy program was about very practical ways of using the communicative approach in the classroom: it was about explaining activity types to teachers and guiding them through the process of enacting these activity types in their classrooms. There was a very minimal amount of theoretical background.

An immense amount of research and work went into designing the textbook, and yet, as I developed these teacher trainings and was reaching out to the greater language teaching community to do so, I was still, myself, engaging in continued learning. I started attending more pedagogy workshops and conferences. It became clear to me that teachers of other languages were getting far more training in the theoretical underpinnings of language instruction in comparison to Yiddish. I have a pretty good sense of how much training Yiddish teachers have, because as part of our application materials, we ask applicants to list what exposure they have had to general language pedagogy prior to our programs. The overwhelming majority of applicants had little to no prior training. Any training they did have was very narrowly focused and specific to Yiddish.

So, the more I became involved with ACTFL and its professional community, and the more I saw that teachers of other languages went through methods courses as part of their training, and attended conferences, and went to various webinars and workshops and seminars, I realized that it would be really helpful to bring all that to Yiddish teaching, as well. When I started probing into why Yiddish teachers didn’t take part in such opportunities, I learned that teachers didn’t have time and financial resources to be able to participate. Many of them do not teach at institutions that have dedicated professional development funds. That’s why all of our programming is free of charge, and our practicum even provides funds to teachers to allow them to participate in paid programming in other places.

Jessica Kirzane:

As you know, I’ve been involved in these programs from the beginning, and they have been so helpful, they’ve really defined my teaching career. I started in the first iteration of the pedagogy fellowship, the summer before I started as a full-time Yiddish language instructor. So In eynem has been central to how I understand Yiddish language teaching for a long time. It’s hard for me to imagine Yiddish language teaching without it. I imagine, Sonia, that’s probably the case for you, as well. How has the textbook shaped your understanding of Yiddish language pedagogy and how Yiddish should be taught? How have the pedagogy programs at the Yiddish Book Center impacted your own thinking about what it means to teach Yiddish?

Sonia Bloom:

I began studying Yiddish at the YIVO summer program in 2019, just before the release of In eynem. But as I continued to study as a beginner, once the textbook was released, my father got me a copy as a present. So I already had my own copy before I started working at the Center and was able to explore it. I was immediately wowed by the colorful pages and all of the multimedia. It brought together an emphasis on communication with a trove of authentic materials.

Once I started working with Asya at the Yiddish Book Center and teaching with it, what really stood out to me about In eynem was the emphasis on creating a classroom environment from day one in which you are using Yiddish to understand and be understood. Communication is the fuel for acquisition and that actually cultivates a warm and inviting classroom environment. Rather than structuring lessons around learning about Yiddish, the focus is on what you can do in Yiddish, which, when modeled with enthusiasm, is so encouraging and infectious.

I’ve been surprised by the effect that staying in Yiddish as much as possible has on students’ motivation and also the language that they acquire by the end of even a 10-week beginner Zoom course. And also the role that it has in counteracting anxiety many students have around speaking. Everyone makes mistakes in an immersive environment because you are learning by doing.

Jessica Kirzane:

I agree - that’s why In eynem has become so fundamental for me, at this point, to teaching Yiddish. It’s interesting to me, Asya, that after you already wrote the textbook, you have continued to develop your language pedagogy through attending seminars and workshops, and you have gone back and revised the lesson plans. You are continually rethinking how to work with the material in In eynem and how to continue to develop it — I know because we often bounce ideas off each other! I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how that process of continuing to develop lessons is connected to the pedagogy program?

Asya Schulman:

Absolutely. First of all, In eynem is not exhaustive. It is a limited resource. Each Yiddish class is different; each particular circumstance in which someone is teaching is different. There are different student populations; there are different kinds of teachers. People have different needs, different learning styles. The textbook is designed to be flexible, with a variety of activity types. Teachers can modify what they use and how they use it for their particular student population. But it’s still never going to capture all of the possibilities. Our pedagogy programming can step in to fill in those gaps, because we are giving teachers the tools to assess what their students need and create or adapt materials based on those needs. We are teaching teachers how to adapt or design their own lesson plans, their own pedagogical materials, in ways that fit their circumstances.

Once the teachers have those tools, once they understand the underpinnings of how language learning and acquisition work, then they can also apply these skills for other Yiddish classes. In eynem only goes up to a certain level of Yiddish teaching, it’s only an elementary textbook. What do you do if you want to follow these principles but you have intermediate students or advanced students? Students who studied with In eynem and are expecting a similar teaching style at later levels? Once you acquire the skills and the knowledge of how pedagogy works, then you can start using those skills for teaching any level regardless of what materials are available to you.

As for the lesson plan revisions: I am very proud of In eynem and the way it implements the communicative activity types that I understood to be instrumental in my students’ learning. But as I have continued to learn, as I have gained a deeper theoretical understanding of the science behind proficiency-oriented instruction with a communicative approach, I began to see areas where our activities could be made even more compelling and effective. For the past two years, I have been auditing all of our chapters and units to make sure that form-meaning connections are primary in each classroom activity. This involves checking that there is a purpose beyond language practice to every task, a reason for students to be listening to their partners’ answers when they ask them questions. The revision process involves moving away from communicative drills towards genuine exchanges of information, away from display questions (a type of question in which the questioner already knows the answer before asking) towards compelling engagement with the input. I am very pleased that my immersion into pedagogy research has allowed me to improve upon both the teacher training and the materials themselves to make everything more proficiency-focused.


Jessica Kirzane:

When it comes to your revisions and to giving teachers the tools to continue to develop their own materials or their own teaching practices irrespective of what materials they’re using, it seems to me that these all go hand in hand with the idea of building a professional community — with yourself in it! Can you describe how teachers are involved in this audit process or in creating their own new activities for use with In eynem? Do you share your revisions with teachers, and do they give feedback? Are teachers sharing their new activities with one another and with you? And was that an intentional outcome of the pedagogy program?

Asya Schulman:

That’s a great question. The answer is: absolutely. Just last week in our practicum meeting, I learned a new term that I think is really fun: “feedback and forth.” This means that feedback is not a one-directional path, but rather something that goes back and forth between the two parties. When it comes to the pedagogy training, this has definitely been my experience. Perhaps the most striking example is Adrien Smith, who is now working with me on the revision process and has collaborated with me on creating a plethora of activities. And certainly she is not the only one. You, for example, have provided us with a lot of feedback on our materials and shared your insights and invented some great activities that we are adding into our revised plans.

There are different ways of engaging, as well. Some of our teachers just come up with whole activities that they send us, that we can then incorporate. Other teachers provide us feedback on the lesson plans we’ve given them — they tell us when it feels like a step is missing or when something didn’t go well when they applied it in their classroom. Maybe a lesson jumps too quickly from input to output, or the students don’t have enough exposure to X, Y, Z before they have to take more responsibility for it. That feedback is extremely helpful because as I mentioned, everybody teaches in a different context. I can’t predict exactly how everything’s going to go in every classroom. And when I get that information back from the teachers, I can use it to inform my revisions. So I love the collaborative nature of the whole project. I’m thrilled that it’s going that way. Everybody who’s open to communicating with me about the process of teaching with In eynem has given something back to me to reincorporate into the materials. It’s been wonderful to see that. This is a great indication of the success of our pedagogy training, because these teachers have clearly learned how to integrate effective practices and translate that into adjusting and creating new activities.

Sonia Bloom:

As to the question of whether community building was intentional? Definitely. One goal of building out this programming has been to cultivate a professional community and provide opportunities for open communication among Yiddish instructors. Yiddish teachers can talk to each other and lighten the load of resource material preparation. In geveb plays a huge role in that, as does the Center, and there are other platforms and channels, as well. Collaboration doesn’t need to look any one particular way, but wherever it happens, it’s invaluable.

Asya Schulman:

Our programming is not top-down. We are all learning together. We are providing the cohort with resources and are there for additional guidance, but we — Sonia and I — are along for the ride.

Jessica Kirzane:

A moment when I felt like there was a strong impetus for collaboration and a strong response from the Yiddish teaching community was around the quick switch to Zoom at the height of the pandemic. That’s a moment when you, and the Center, showed a lot of leadership in helping instructors make that pivot. I wonder if you can talk about how the pandemic impacted this project of building the pedagogy community?

Asya Schulman:

Yes. We try to reach as many Yiddish teachers as possible, which means that there’s a big geographic spread. When the default was still in-person workshops, that was a lot trickier. When everything went online, then suddenly it was par for the course that we could accommodate people in other countries and time zones. So, on a very mundane, practical level, the switch to online learning made our programming a lot easier to carry out. The Yiddish teaching community is not huge, so we can’t have something like the New England Chapter of the Yiddish Teachers Association. (Halevay!) We all have to be in it together, wherever we are. In fact, last year’s Pedagogy Fellowship was very international. I think we had six countries represented.

The other significant outcome of the pandemic for Yiddish instruction was that demand for Yiddish teaching increased dramatically. Online Yiddish classes started sprouting up everywhere. When everything went online, geographically dispersed students could end up in a class together with one teacher, whereas before there were not enough people in a particular place to have a Yiddish class there. So as more and more Yiddish classes started being offered, there were more Yiddish teachers who needed support and pedagogy training.

We also helped teachers adjust to the online context. But I think that’s relatively minor because that’s something that was universal to all teachers — these specific questions of how Yiddish was impacted are probably more interesting. And there were a lot of resources for learning how to teach online from outside of the Yiddish world that we could apply to our context.

Jessica Kirzane:

Maybe it’s a function of the international component of the pedagogy programs, or maybe it’s a function of the advanced Yiddish component of the programs, but it seems to me that in the pedagogy practicum there’s a secondary goal of having an opportunity for Yiddish teachers to speak Yiddish to one another and speak about language pedagogy in Yiddish. I am interested in hearing a little bit more about that. Are your goals — on the one hand, helping Yiddish instructors have the theoretical background and training and vocabulary to talk about pedagogy in the world outside of Yiddish, and on the other hand, helping them to speak to one another in Yiddish or improve their own Yiddish — in tension with one another? Are they complementary?

Asya Schulman:

I think they’re absolutely complementary. I think they go hand in hand and doing both is key to the overall experience. In the practicum, participants go out into the world of general language research and instruction and learn what’s happening there. That’s going to happen in English or in whatever language is the local language. When they bring it home, when they present it to other Yiddish teachers, that piece can be in Yiddish. I think it’s important to be able to do both, to interact with other professionals who are working with other languages and exchange ideas and information with them, and then also have your own cohort in your own language to figure out the best ways to apply this material to your particular circumstances, to develop your own proficiency and your own language skills.

Jessica Kirzane:

As a Yiddish language instructor teaching at an institution where I’m the only Yiddish language instructor, opportunities to speak in Yiddish with people who are not my students can be somewhat rare. Being among Yiddish instructors at the Yiddish Book Center and in these online spaces has been one of the places where I can most consistently find opportunities to use my own Yiddish and improve my own Yiddish — while talking about things that are directly useful in my work! So I definitely can see the benefit of that.

Asya Schulman:

There’s also that fun component of trying to figure out how to reproduce the specialized technical lexicon of language acquisition theory in Yiddish: How do you say “task-based language teaching” in Yiddish? How do you say “corrective feedback”? This helps us to be able to talk about our craft, so to speak, in our own terms.

Jessica Kirzane:

Have there been any particularly surprising or rewarding outcomes of these programs that maybe went beyond what you expected?

Asya Schulman:

It’s that we’re making a tremendous and immediate impact. Adrien Smith is now teaching Yiddish at the University of Texas Austin, and she tells us that it’s thanks to our pedagogy programming that her career path has gone in this direction. It’s extremely rewarding and exciting to see that happen. And every time, Jessica, that you send me an activity that you’ve developed, it’s so exciting to see something that I hadn’t thought of myself, or to see how you’re using materials in a different way than I had thought of. I love seeing what other people are doing with what they know how to do.

I want to mention that it is also very rewarding to be working with Sonia on all of these projects. It’s so wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s very hard to work on developing communicative materials by yourself, because the whole point is communicating with somebody else. It’s no good sitting here in my office just imagining what a particular activity could look like. Actually having another person to work on things with and to talk things through with is immensely helpful, especially when that person is as skilled as Sonia.

Jessica Kirzane:

I just taught my son the phrase “geeking out”. It feels appropriate here: it’s really fun to have an opportunity to geek out with someone about something that you spend your whole life doing.

Asya Schulman:

Exactly. I mean, I love nerdy pedagogy conversations. Any time any of our teachers message me to talk about some pedagogy question, I get so excited. Having people to share ideas with, building something together, is just so much fun.

Jessica Kirzane:

Sonia, what do you like about working on Yiddish language pedagogy?

Sonia Bloom:

What don’t I like about working on Yiddish language pedagogy? I guess I’m geeking out. I think that it can’t be overstated how wonderful it is to be among peers who are trying to hone their craft in a world that often undervalues teaching. It’s rewarding to be able to be a hub for those questions. And I’m thrilled to share in the creativity of everyone we work with.

Also, I think about the way this fits into the larger umbrella of the Yiddish Book Center and the core mission of the Center to preserve and digitize and make accessible this wide range of materials. I think teaching offers such an amazing entry point into engaging with some of those materials.

For example — and this is a real highlight for me — Asya and I have been working with our Steiner students on processing the Francis Brandt collection of over 800 archival recordings from the Jewish Public Library of Montreal. Our intermediate summer students listen and try to segment these hour, two hour long recordings into shorter files that often correspond to recitations of texts. Thanks to Jochre and OCR, we can actually match the audio to the written texts. This is a beautiful confluence of language acquisition, history, archival materials, literature. It’s a language learning task in itself: we’ve seen such amazing results in the intermediate students from getting to hear different Yiddish accents, trying to decipher what’s being said enough to be able to find the text, and having the multimodal input of reading and listening at the same time. So that is one project that has been particularly exciting over the past couple of years that we’re moving forward. Eventually, Yiddish teachers will be able to use this in their own classrooms and we’ll see what kinds of activities they’re able to build around these audio files.

Jessica Kirzane:

This principle of usefulness seems consistent throughout these programs, and it reminds me very much of something that we were talking about in the pedagogy practicum: one student’s output can become another student’s input. There’s a kind of loop: the more that you produce in the world of Yiddish pedagogy, either as a student or as an instructor, the more that exists out there that other people can learn Yiddish from. Do you have any other plans for the future of these programs that you want to share?

Asya Schulman:

One big project that we are slowly, slowly, slowly working on is developing materials for an intermediate curriculum. This involves working with a number of Yiddish teachers and using our latest research into language pedagogy to make these materials as effective as possible. We have an amazing team working on this long-term project, which will develop over several phases. Our core group is Rivke Margolis, Adrien Smith, and Brukhe Lang working on different aspects of the materials development. And then we’re hoping to have a second phase that would bring in materials from other teachers, as well, based on what they’re using in their intermediate classes. This curriculum will be modular, made up of independent units that can be combined in whatever order and whatever selection each teacher feels best fits their particular learning setting.

Another thing that we are hoping to do more of is working with ACTFL. We’re hoping to offer more opportunities like the OPI Familiarization Workshop.

And finally, as more and more people complete all of the programs that we offer and we have more Certificate recipients, having that credential will become increasingly meaningful. Potential employers or colleagues will be able to see that as a marker of somebody who has invested in their development as a Yiddish teacher.

Jessica Kirzane:

This all sounds wonderful, and there’s so much to look forward to. I’ll just add my own word of personal thanks: as you know, I value what you do very much.

Asya Schulman:

Thank you. I also want to acknowledge that everything that we do builds on work that has been done by our predecessors, and it’s very much a goldene keyt. We’re very grateful to the Yiddish teachers who have done so much for the profession up until now, and we can only do our work thanks to having learned from them. We are collaborating with new teachers, but we can only do it because of the strength of the Yiddish instruction and materials that we learned from ourselves and all those who have worked so hard to build the thriving future for Yiddish language instruction that we now find ourselves in.

MLA STYLE
Schulman, Asya, Sonia Bloom, and Jessica Kirzane. “Training for Yiddish Instructors Based in The Latest Pedagogy Research: An Interview with Asya Schulman and Sonia Bloom.” In geveb, March 2024: https://ingeveb.org/blog/training-for-yiddish-instructors.
CHICAGO STYLE
Schulman, Asya, Sonia Bloom, and Jessica Kirzane. “Training for Yiddish Instructors Based in The Latest Pedagogy Research: An Interview with Asya Schulman and Sonia Bloom.” In geveb (March 2024): Accessed Apr 24, 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Asya Schulman

Asya Vaisman Schulman is the director of the Yiddish Language Institute and the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA.

Sonia Bloom

Sonia Bloom is the Yiddish Education Specialist at the Yiddish Book Center.

Jessica Kirzane

Jessica Kirzane is the assistant instructional professor of Yiddish at the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in Yiddish Studies from Columbia University. Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.