Longtime teacher leads the way on social justice
As she celebrates her 30th anniversary at the Rashi School in Dedham, Stephanie Rotsky looks back on her career with pride and ahead to the future with excitement.
“I’ve grown so much as a person and an educator,” said the Needham resident, “but I’m doing my best work now.”
Rotsky said she learned the importance of helping others through caring for her three younger brothers, as well as the loving, generous examples set by her parents whom she calls “phenomenal role models.” She developed an interest in teaching while working at a Jewish overnight summer camp, where as a counselor she challenged girls and boys to “recognize their greatness.”
Rotsky received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Ohio State University and began her teaching career at public schools in Cleveland. After earning a master’s degree in Jewish education from the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, she joined the Rashi School faculty in 1988.
Rotsky was a second-grade teacher for 15 years before being appointed as the first social justice programmer at the K-8 school, where social justice is an academic endeavor with specific themes integrated within the curriculum at each grade level. In her role, Rotsky guides the examination of social justice issues in the classroom and oversees schoolwide initiatives to make a difference both locally and globally.
One example is the annual Tamchui project, which empowers students to see themselves as powerful philanthropists who can change the world. In fact, Rotsky notes that numerous alumni have credited the program with inspiring their own “extraordinary work.” Since the inception of the initiative 23 years ago, the school has supported more than 95 child-centered organizations worldwide and donated over $175,000.
Given the current political climate, Rotsky considers social justice work in schools to be more important than ever.
“One of the core tenants of Judaism is we’re not free to walk away from making the world better,” she said. “When you integrate social justice learning and teaching, you show students how to think critically and put their gifts to work.”