Amy Meltzer - 2015 Award Recipient
Amy Meltzer, the lead Kindergarten teacher at Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) in Northampton, MA, is proving that a small classroom in a small school in a small town can be a nucleus of inspired Jewish education and a model for the entire field.
“I’m a classroom teacher of very young children, which means that my work takes place on a very small scale—I think about tiny details and the individual child far more than I think about the Jewish people. Yet my work truly embodies the vision I have for the Jewish people: that there will be educators at every step of a family’s Jewish journey doing this important work, focusing on the individual, and yes, the small details. Because when we each pause to ask, ‘what does this person, or this family, need to feel invited, empowered, and inspired to make Jewish practice part of their lives?,’ the Jewish people are well served.”
Amy Meltzer was the Lead Teacher of the Gan (Kindergarten) at Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) from 2006-2017. In this role, she designed an integrated curriculum for her classroom that utilized literacy, arts, science, and Hebrew language. She also created the first classroom blog at the school, through which she communicates with parents about children’s learning and provides them with resources to supplement their Jewish experiences, as well as videos and digital projects featuring her students. Ms. Meltzer has envisioned and implemented many programs for Gan families, including “Gan Opera,” in which the class creates and produces an opera, from the story, to the songs, to the sets. She has initiated partnerships between the Gan and other schools and organizations in the greater Northampton area. Ms. Meltzer has received funding to work with two local art schools to create Jewish holiday family arts programs, has led family High Holiday and Shabbat services at local synagogues, and oversees a monthly program for preschool families in partnership with PJ Library.
Ms. Meltzer served on the Book Selection Committee of PJ Library and wrote monthly columns about Jewish parenting and Jewish children’s books for the organization. She has taught at numerous day schools and community schools and as an adult educator.
In 1992, Ms. Meltzer founded the Teva Learning Center and designed and directed the inaugural season of a residential environmental Jewish education experience for day school students. She was a Wilderness and Outdoor Education Instructor for schools and camps. In 2006, Ms. Meltzer co-founded and served as Director of Camp Gesher, in Oregon.
Ms. Meltzer received the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation in 2001. In 2007, she published A Mezuzah on the Door, which was chosen as a selection of PJ Library and named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book of the Year by the Association of Jewish Libraries. In 2011, Ms. Meltzer published The Shabbat Princess, which was named one of the year’s “Best Children’s Books” by Tablet Magazine and was listed as a Sydney Taylor Notable Book of the Year by the Association of Jewish Libraries.
Ms. Meltzer received her B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1989 and completed the first year of an M.A. in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1991. She earned her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Smith College in 1997.
From Her Letters of Nomination and Support
“In Amy’s classroom you will find no cookie cutter art projects, but plenty of children who are artists. You will find technology used skillfully, alongside outdoor play and learning. Amy teaches to the whole family both at school and through her prolific writing. Amy is an author, an avid blogger, a mentor, and an inspiring educator whose contributions have introduced thousands of people to Jewish traditions.”
Teva Learning Alliance
2009 Covenant Award Recipient
“Amy has an exceptional ability to engage and bring out the best in people – children, families and colleagues alike: she energizes the kindergarteners with her dynamic and creative style, and she inspires trust and confidence among new parents to the school. Her students bloom – academically, socially and Jewishly. Parents can feel the energy and optimism radiate from Amy’s teaching. And families find that they become part of a larger community.”
“Amy combines dedication to her local Jewish community, initiative, creativity, social media savvy, sharp writing skills, and impeccable follow through, a rare combination that benefits her students and families throughout the local community. Just like a teacher recognizes “teachable moments”, Amy recognizes “organizing moments.” She takes the initiative to make Judaism more accessible and continually enriches opportunities for Jewish learning.”
Community Engagement Director
Harold Grinspoon Foundation, PJ Library