English Teachers Travel to Israel to Teach Low-Income Children

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

English teachers from the US and other countries gave up part of their summer to teach English to low-income children in Israel and loved it. The Israel Program for Excellence in English (TALMA) is in its second year, and the students have significantly increased their knowledge of English over these two years.

Eighty American teachers took part in this program in 2015 and taught a summer English program to public school students in grades 1-4 in four Israeli municipalities. The educators worked in conjunction with an Israeli teacher.

While students in affluent parts of large cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have a variety of options to learn English, this is not the case for students in low-income communities. Learning English opens many doors for Israeli students to take part in higher education and have successful careers.

Not only are the Israeli children learning English, but the teachers are learning new techniques and methods for classroom management as well. Having to persevere in teaching children while their parents are off fighting in a war prepared Sean Martin to persevere while educating the most difficult students in Detroit. Olivia Goldstein applied techniques that worked well in Israel back in her classroom in the US. For instance, she found employing songs to be a useful teaching technique for English language learners.

These teachers are part of a highly select group. The TALMA program chose the 80 educators from a pool of more than 500 applicants. The teachers are chosen in part on their education qualifications and also on their experience and interest in Israel.

The project represents a collaboration between the Israel Ministry of Education, the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, and the Schusterman Family Foundation. The organizers would like to expand the TALMA program tenfold next year and include firth and sixth graders.