JFGD honors Schultz Scholars

CJE honors SMU master’s degree candidates at special Zoom event

The Center for Jewish Education (CJE) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) was proud to honor the Leslie and Howard Schultz Excellence in Jewish Education Scholars receiving their master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University (SMU) with a virtual reception. Established in 2017 to develop “teacher-leaders,” this prestigious program funded scholarships for three distinguished Dallas Jewish educators — Erin Laizerovich, Marco Rodriguez and Aimee Wortendyke — to support their pursuit of a master’s degree from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU in Dallas. “Our CJE is honored to partner with the Schultz family and the Simmons School at SMU to help support the development of the best and brightest educators for the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Mordechai Harris, executive director of the CJE. 

The term “teacher-leader” refers to the rare and powerful skill set through which an educator also serves as an example and mentor beyond the classroom. “At the CJE, we recognize that the single greatest way to invest in Jewish students at scale is to invest in the individuals we entrust with teaching them. Programs like this one improve student outcomes for classrooms of students over a teacher’s entire career,” said Harris.

Thus far, the contributions of this cohort of Schultz Scholars have been significant. In addition to their classroom responsibilities and providing professional development for the community’s educators, Laizerovich has provided counseling and support for students and their families during this uncertain time; Rodriguez successfully led Levine Academy’s camp, one of the first to open and operate in-person during the pandemic and developed academic based electives in his role as the middle school electives coordinator; and Aimee Wortendyke has guided Torah Day School of Dallas through the transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic with grace and expertise. 

Having received their degrees, the Schultz Scholars will continue to leverage the productive relationships they have built with SMU professors to facilitate additional learning opportunities for the Jewish community’s teachers and administrators, as well as serve as model educators and leaders for Dallas-area Jewish schools. 

The Leslie and Howard Schultz Excellence in Jewish Education Scholarship program honors the couple’s lifelong commitment to Jewish education. For more than 50 years, the Schultzes served as catalysts for innovation and Jewish philanthropy in Dallas. The CJE and JFGD are humbled on this occasion to once again honor the memory of Leslie Schultz, who passed away in 2018, and to recall the Lifetime Achievement Award the couple received from the CJE in 2017.

—Submitted by

Julie Punjak

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