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Interview: Betsy Katz

Interview: Betsy Katz

The Spertus faculty is comprised of leading experts from top universities, all with impressive hands-on professional credentials. Access to their knowledge and creativity is at the core of the Spertus experience.

Personalizing the learning experience
Betsy Katz learned to love teaching in sixth grade.
Today, her passion is just as strong.

Dr. Betsy Katz laughed remembering the moment she realized she wanted to be a teacher. She has a diary entry from that day in sixth grade at Isaac Walton Elementary School in Fairbury, Illinois.

A second-grade teacher rushed into Katz’s classroom requesting a student watch her class for the rest of the day. Katz and one of her friends were given the assignment.

Her diary tells the tale.

Today I taught school for the first time. Mrs. Danforth had to go home for a whole hour. Marsha and I stayed with the class. We drew pictures, played records, and read stories. It was wonderful!

With that, Katz devoted her life to teaching, and specifically Jewish education. More than half a century later, she is still teaching with the same passion she discovered in that grade school classroom. The Highland Park resident, who received her EdD from the University of Cincinnati, is an adjunct faculty member and student mentor in the Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies (MAJPS) program at Spertus. She also teaches at the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, where she served as North American Director for 23 years.

Katz, who received a fellowship from the Avi Chai Foundation to write a book about adult Jewish education, has a long history with Spertus. She grew up learning Hebrew out of books sent by her aunts, who were students at the institute (then known as the College of Jewish Studies) in the 1940s. Thirty years later, Katz herself took classes at Spertus.

Today she teaches a course about adult Jewish learning, sharing perspectives on history, sociology, learning theory, and personal development. It is the latter that is particularly significant to Katz, who throughout her career has worked to personalize the educational experience.

“(The course) was very personalized in the sense that it was also working with the students to understand themselves as Jewish adults and as Jewish adult learners,” she said. “You do the best you can to acknowledge the differences and speak to everyone in class in a meaningful, personal way as you are teaching, and try and get them to invest in their learning process.”

It is one of her best ways to continue the mentoring process she benefited from when she started teaching.

“Today exists because of positive choices from past generations,” she said. “Those choices can be influenced by adult Jewish learning.”

“To strengthen Jewish identity strengthens the current generation and builds a strong foundation for future generations.” #

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