Alene Arnold, Co-Head of Jewish Middle School
School leadership is one of the most meaningful variables that impacts learning. A school leader can develop instruction and curriculum, cultivate leadership, shape a school’s environment, and foster a vision of success for all students.
One of the driving forces behind the Jewish Middle School’s growth and success is Co-Head of School Alene Arnold. We caught up with Arnold to find out what motivates her leadership of JMS, and what she sees in the school’s future.
What made you want to become an educator? I’ve wanted to become a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I had a fairly easy time in most subjects as a child but struggled with math. I once had a geometry teacher who went ahead and allowed me to pass the class despite not understanding the material. While he meant well, in the long run it didn’t do me any good. When I look back, I wish he had taken the time to see me, help me work through the material, and push me to succeed. I managed to eventually teach myself the material and realized that all I needed was that extra push. Part of why I became a teacher was to make sure kids don’t remain hidden. I want every student to feel seen and be pushed in the direction they need to achieve all they can.
What about JMS attracted you to join the faculty? I have graduate degrees in both Theological Studies as well as Education, so the idea of teaching at a school so deeply rooted in religious values, but at the same time committed to diversity, was a dream come true.
What is the most significant change you have seen in the school over the last six years? I have been so lucky to get a front row seat in watching the development of JMS. What has struck me the most over these years is the increasing faith - by teachers, students, and parents - that high quality education serves all kids, regardless of background, socio-economics, or academic ability. We have grown and developed our curriculum with the understanding that exposing kids to the highest possible level of pedagogy leads to success- both academically and in social and emotional well-being.
You spent many years outside the classroom, working in education policy. How do you think this experience helps you in your role as a teacher and Head of School? If my years in education policy taught me one thing, it's that the most significant factors in student success are the teachers and what’s going on in the classroom. There are so many kinds of teachers and different styles of teaching, and they can all be good. But an educator needs to be flexible and recognize that there is no singular approach to teaching. At the same time, a head of school needs to give teachers the autonomy and creative space to develop their own curriculum and teach in a way that meets the needs of their students. At JMS, our small class sizes allow teachers the flexibility to provide diverse educational experiences to students, all while ensuring they continue to meet and exceed required benchmarks. As a result, our students learn to be independent thinkers and learners.
What is your vision for the future of JMS? When students graduate from JMS, they should be able to choose and pursue any future they want. This means wholly preparing a child - academically, developmentally, socially, and emotionally. I believe the best way to achieve this is to continue promoting our values and mission. JMS stands out as a middle school constantly in conscious academic pursuit of bettering ourselves. This is our now, and this is our future.