By Andrea Weinstein
Editor’s note: In honor of its 40th anniversary this year and the outstanding job by Levine Academy faculty with their quick pivot to virtual learning in the spring due to COVID-19, the 2020 Waldman Teacher Excellence Award was presented to the entire Levine Academy faculty.
Solomon Schechter Academy, now Ann & Nate Levine Academy, had been foremost in Sadie and Bill Waldman’s life for many years prior to its eventual founding. Indeed, their passionate commitment to seeing the school become a reality inspired their partnership with two other couples, the hiring of the first principal, and then witnessing the triumph: the birth of Solomon Schechter Academy in 1979.
In June 1986, my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary. In acknowledging that special occasion, our family determined that whatever we chose had to be in keeping with our parents’ feelings about “gifts.” There were many choices as they had been involved in several community organizations, but Solomon Schechter was new and seeking a lasting place in the community with Jewish education at its core.
My thoughts turned to the teachers, for without their efforts and dedication, excellence in instruction, creativity and above all, giving every student the personal attention they need, the school could not succeed. After careful consideration and consultation, our family decided to establish the Waldman Teacher Excellence Award under the auspices of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. The Award was to be given every year to an outstanding teacher rotating among the various departments within the school as determined by the head of school and department principals.
The first award was given in 1988; the audience was small; the venue, also small in the all-purpose gym. We sat on the children’s (lower school) chairs. My parents’ faces told the story. They beamed with pride knowing that outstanding teachers would be recognized in this way, year after year, in perpetuity. My father z”l never saw his great-grandchildren attend Levine, but my mother z”l stood by my side until 2004, applauding teacher awardees over the years in the presence of her six great-grandchildren, all Levine students.
The award continues to be a highlight of the spring semester each year. How meaningful to see some 500 teachers and students waiting expectantly and cheering wildly as the closely kept secret of the “Teacher of the Year” is announced. My family is extremely grateful that the spirit and intent of awarding Levine Academy teachers has continued to bring to the forefront the tremendous effort they make every day thus enabling each student to be his or her best.
By Andrea Weinstein