Hillel Hebrew teacher retires after sharing her lifelong love of learning with her students.
A well-known quote explains: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Label Elana Adler, “the great teacher.”
For the past 25 years, she has been an inspiration and mentor to her students and colleagues at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills. She retires from 45 years of teaching, with 25 of those at Hillel, at the end of this academic year.
Adler always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but did not think her dream could turn into reality.
“When I moved from New York to Detroit, after being born and raised in Israel, I stayed with my cousin Lola,” Adler said. “She asked me what I wanted to do now that I am living in Detroit. I told her I would love to teach, but I can’t. I had kids of my own and my husband worked, so I didn’t know how I would be able to balance both teaching and my family life.
“Lola said she would help me. She told me I would be a very good teacher and that I must have hope. I listened, went to pursue my dream and have loved it ever since.”
Adler’s teaching career began in 1967 at United Hebrew Schools, a system that served Jewish children in Detroit and the suburbs many years ago. Adler also taught Hebrew at Congregation B’nai Moshe and Adat Shalom Synagogue.
When United Hebrew Schools closed, she was offered a job at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills and ever since has been teaching first- and second-grade Hebrew, which includes reading, writing, speaking, prayers, learning about the Jewish holidays and the Bible.
She does not waste any time into the classroom, and is ready to teach the minute the bell rings and the kids file in the classroom. She is always striving for her students to succeed and learn something new each day.
Adler’s creativity came into play when she introduced “Torah cards” to the student body. Every time a student answers a question correctly or reads aloud in class, they receive a Torah card. Each Torah card has a story from the Bible on the back. She has used Torah cards for many years and finds them a great incentive to get students to push themselves.
“I was known as the teacher who gives out Torah cards,” Adler said. “My students collected books of them through the years. Students of mine who are now in their early 30s give their children their Torah cards to show me. It’s wonderful.”
Former student Carly Cykiert of Farmington Hills, now a student at University of Michigan, said, “I still have my Torah card from when I was her student at Hillel. I learned so much from her and will continue to use what she taught me in Hebrew class for the rest of my life.”
Joys Of Teaching
Being a teacher for so long has taught Adler a lot about who she is, she says. Teaching has taught her patience and tolerance. Teaching also has shown her how wonderful it is to be able to teach young students about their religion.
“It is such an uplifting moment to see the students learning and, all of a sudden, they have grasped the concept and can speak to you and read to you,” Adler said. “They go from knowing nothing to slowly learning more and more about their religion.”
Hillel teaching colleague Marcia Seigerman said, “Wherever Elana was, there were children. She had a glow about her that is beyond description. She is so full of life, enthusiasm and spirit. She has touched the souls of so many children. She is going to be missed by everybody.”
After retirement, Elana plans to take piano lessons, something she has always wanted to do but never had the patience or time for. She also plans to continue taking classes in rabbinical studies. She hopes to travel with her husband and visit her family in Israel.
“I love all the children and am going to miss them dearly,” Adler said. “They are like the sunshine of my life. I am definitely going to miss my colleagues as well. They have become lifelong friends of mine.
“I want to thank everyone I worked with through all these years. I enjoyed each and every moment and will miss teaching very much.”
By Leslie Spector| JN Intern