A JK-12 pluralistic school that engages students in an exemplary and inspiring general and Jewish education.

Staff Spotlight

Learn more about the talented and passionate faculty and staff at CESJDS!

Rabbi Marc Blatt, Middle School Tanakh Teacher

Staff Spotlight: Rabbi Marc Blatt, Middle School Tanakh Teacher

"At age 8, I decided to retire and move to Florida," chuckled Rabbi Marc Blatt, Middle School Tanakh teacher, of his family's move from Long Island to Orlando during his childhood. Interestingly enough, he grew up in the synagogue that is closest to Disney World, was the first to have a Bar Mitzvah in the building, and also the first Bar Mitzvah to have a wedding in that same place!

Rabbi Blatt comes to CESJDS with over 15 years of informal Jewish education in his pocket. A political science major in college with an eye on law school, his first trip to Israel and a law office internship, quickly changed his mind.

Right out of college, he began working in the synagogue religious school where he grew up, met his wife (Rachel), and off they went to New York City to study at the Davidson School of Jewish Education. Upon graduation, Rabbi Blatt decided that rabbinical school was the next stop and moved out to Los Angeles to attend the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at American Jewish University. After a year, Rabbi Blatt's wife decided that she, too, wanted to become a rabbi, and joined him at AJU.

Rabbi Blatt eventually moved back east and settled in the Baltimore area, and is now educating 6th and 8th grade students on the study of Tanakh (Bible). "It is exciting to teach the next generation of Jews and be their guide," he said.

With a lengthy commute and being out of the house for almost 12 hours a day, he spends his free time with his family--Rachel and their three children, 6 year-old twins Hannah and Tova, and 20-month old son, Rafi.

Kim Sherk, Lower School Language Arts Enrichment Specialist

Staff Spotlight: Kim Sherk, Lower School Language Arts Enrichment Specialist

Kim Sherk launched the Language Arts Enrichment Program five years ago at CESJDS. The program started with 15 students in 'pull-out' style classes and has evolved into a 'push-in' method where all students receive enrichment, and lessons are tailored to students performing at least a grade and a half above grade level. Kim also works hand-in-hand with the Language Arts & Social Studies Coordinator to revise and enhance the LA curriculum.

Kim has started numerous initiatives and has led many programs in addition to educating our students. She ran the patrol program for two years, started the Young Authors Club, manages the Lit Lab (drop in reading and writing sessions), writes grants for Artist in Residence programs, coordinates cross-curricular programming, founded the annual Lower School literary journal initiative, leads in-house Professional Development sessions, is the point person for the Sunshine Committee, and is the Lower School co-chair for the school-wide Diversity Committee. She also participated in the first professional blogging cohort at CESJDS through edJEWcon. PHEW! "I love everything that I am doing, but would like to eventually to reduce the number of projects that I am working on in order to contribute more quality time to each," she said.

She is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Teacher Leadership from City University of Seattle and is working on her National Board Re-Certification.

Outside of CESJDS, Kim enjoys swimming, making stained glass, and spending time with her husband Daniel. She also has a dog, Roxy, and an old, cranky cat named Ralphie.

"Kim is creative, tireless, and quick to understand the value of new initiatives. She is supportive of her colleagues and the school, and is fantastic at what she does," said a colleague.

Kim, along with Alexis Soffler, Ph.D., Lower School Science and STEM Coordinator, will speak at the International Literacy Association conference in July 2017 about integrating writing into STEM. They will examine student work and the process of curriculum integration.

Charles Ostle, Upper School Music Teacher

Staff Spotlight: Charles Ostle, Upper School Music Teacher

Charles Ostle is in his 9th year at CESJDS as the Upper School Music Teacher. His contribution to the school and its students goes way beyond his title. Charles, a performing musician for 20+ years, directs the instrumental ensembles at both the middle and high school levels (which includes preparation for and performance at the winter and spring concerts), teaches general music and Intro to Piano at the middle school level, and has ventured into a new class, Intro to Guitar, at the high school level. He also assists with the instrumental pieces for Zimryiah, and the middle and high school musicals.

Charles is a percussionist by trade, obtaining both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in music performance from the University of Maryland, College Park. He plays various gigs in the area when time allows. He will be performing with the Pan American Symphony Orchestra at the Lincoln Theater on February 25th, and at Sotto on 14th St. every other Wednesday. "Not only do I get to fuel my students' passion for music, but I also have opportunities to play myself," he said.

He is constantly hungry for knowledge in his field, which is just another of many reasons why he loves teaching at CESJDS. "I love being a part of a community that values learning to an extent that matches my own," Charles said.

"Charles has proved to be an exceptional colleague over the years and works very hard to promote an excellent music education for students in the school community. He is active inside and outside the school community with band performances and music events," said a colleague.

"Charles teaches across both divisions, which can be logistically and skillfully challenging, and has taken on a new class this year with Intro to Guitar. He plays a role in everything and anything that touches music. He does so much, never says no, and is integral to CESJDS Arts," says another.

Sue Marx, Lower School Jewish Music and T'filah Teacher

Staff Spotlight: Sue Marx, Lower School Jewish Music and T'filah Teacher

Sue Marx, Lower School Jewish Music and T'filah Teacher, is in her 16th year as a CESJDS faculty member. She began at our school as a part-time teacher, coming off of raising her kids, and little by little expanded the number of students and subject matter under her wing.

Sue formerly had a career as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and then went on to teach prosecutors and other professionals with the National District Attorneys' Association's National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse. She happened upon her calling as a music and t'filah teacher while singing with one of her children's supplemental school classes at Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Synagogue. She was hired on the spot by the school director.

Her role at CESJDS has expanded from teaching Jewish music for Kindergarten through 2nd grade to teaching Jewish Music and T'filah across the grades, 5th grade Torah cantillation, daily 15-minute Minha (afternoon) service for 3rd and 4th grades, working with our youngest Gurim Junior Kindergarten students, preparing the 4th grade for their Havdalah service, and the 1st grade for their Hagigat Hassidur, receipt of their own prayer book.

"Integrating t'filah into my CESJDS 'portfolio' has been life enhancing. I have grown tremendously in my knowledge and love of t'filah and really feel as though it capitalizes on my strengths," Sue said.

Sue also coordinates the monthly Kabbalat Shabbat (welcoming in Shabbat) at the Lower School, with help from fellow music teacher, Gavri Yares. "It is my baby," she said. The Lower School-wide gathering involves a narrative, singing, t'filah, and dancing. Each month, Sue selects two student leaders from the 5th grade to narrate the program.

Sue is married with two grown children. Her husband, Eric, is a lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board. Her son, Jonathan, is a senior at Yale, and daughter, Sarah, a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, made aliyah in December 2015, and lives in Jerusalem.

When she isn't budding the next generation of Jewish musicians and hazzanim at CESJDS, she can be found walking with her husband (they recently completed--after three years of hiking sections at a time--walking the entire 180 miles of the C&O Canal!), tutoring B'nei Mitzvah students, watching Israeli movies and TV, doing crossword puzzles, and reading.

"I feel very grateful to be here. I hope I can stay forever," Sue said.

"Sue is so knowledgeable, patient and talented. I didn't realize her greatness until I started teaching Judaics, and now I bring classes to her several times a day. She never stops learning and takes risks with new songs and tunes. I'm serious. She's amazing," said a colleague.

John Watkins-Chow, Upper School Math Teacher

Staff Spotlight: John Watkins-Chow, Upper School Math Teacher

During any given year, John Watkins-Chow can be teaching a wide variety of math classes at CESJDS. This year (#16 for John), he happens to be an aide in 8th Grade Algebra and teaches 7th Grade Pre-Algebra, 8th Grade Algebra II, 9th Grade Geometry, 10th Grade Pre Calculus, and 12th Grade Multivariable Calculus. John is one of the few hybrid teachers at the Upper school, teaching in both the middle and high school divisions.

John received his Bachelor's Degrees in Mathematics and Mechanical Engineering, and a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After a short stint in professional engineering work, he began teaching. "I like teaching because I feel connected through the whole process. Teaching math makes sense in a way. No matter the location or structure of the language, the math is always the same," said John.

He feels fortunate to be among a community of teachers, and is humbled by the people he works with, especially in the math department. "Under Dina's (Math Department Chair) leadership, she makes it possible for us to be the best teachers we can be," he said.

John's wife is a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health ("She's the real brains of the family.") They have two daughters, one in college and one in high school. When not in the classroom, John enjoys drawing and art, and a book with his illustrations was recently published, entitled "Parent Child Journey: An Individualized Approach to Raising your Challenging Child," by Dr. Dan Shapiro.

"If you Google my name, you can find some sketchy stuff," he said of his art hobby.

Daniella Friedman, Lower School Judaic Studies & Hebrew Language Coordinator

Staff Spotlight: Daniella Friedman, Lower School Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language Coordinator

Daniella Friedman is the Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language Coordinator for the Lower School. She has been a part of the CESJDS family for 20 years and began her tenure as an assistant teacher after volunteering in her oldest child's first grade classroom and loved working with children. Daniella pursued a teaching certificate from the George Washington University and immediately took on her own first grade Judaic Studies class once certified. She continued in her first grade role for 16 years, took on Ulpan (beginning Hebrew) teaching for 4 of those years, and was also the grade-level chair for 13 years. Daniella also took on the roles as Tal AM Coordinator and became a trained Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP) mentor. Outside of CESJDS, she created the school and was the principal of Kol Shalom Talmud Torah from 2002-2005. Her curriculum was awarded the Schechter Gold Award by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ).

Daniella was born in Israel and grew up with El Al Airlines as a second home as her father founded the company, and her mother was the second employee. Daniella and her mother spent a number of years in Geneva, where Daniella was immersed in learning French. This experience led her to pursue a Bachelor's degree in French Linguistics. She then worked for El Al for 10 years where she was in charge of computer training for the reservation department. During this time, she also pursued a Master's in Organizational Behavior from Tel Aviv University's Recanati Business School.

Daniella was always eager to have the opportunity to use her business education, mentoring training, experience as a religious school principal, and the years of experience as a grade chair. Therefore Daniella jumped on the opportunity to become the Lower School's first Judaic Studies and Hebrew Language Coordinator when the role was announced. "I love teaching and although I am no longer in the classroom, I am able to continue in that role by collaborating with and mentoring the teachers, and working with students and parents, including Israeli families who are new to the United States," said Daniella.

Her three children, Avital, Yael, and Eran, grew up bilingual and all attended CESJDS. Her two daughters currently live in New York City--Avital working in the field of global public health and Yael in Holocaust education; and her son is a consultant in Washington, DC. Her husband, Marc, attends as many events as possible in support of his wife including model seders, Hagigat Hassidurs, Havdalah services, and more.

"It's a mission to teach at a Jewish school. I love the community and I love working here, " said Daniella.

A colleague said, "Daniella has a personal touch for every teacher. She is kind, patient and understanding."

Bill Belke, Upper School Facilities Administrator

Staff Spotlight: Bill Belke, Upper School Facilities Administrator

Bill Belke, Upper School Facilities Administrator, has been a part of the CESJDS team since the summer of 2014. In his role, he is responsible for making sure that the physical building is the best that it can be for students to learn and for the teachers to teach. "My team and I take care of everything from ensuring proper classroom set-up to making sure the lights are on to keeping everyone warm in the winter months and cooling the school down in the warmer months," he said.

Prior to his tenure at CESJDS, Bill received a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Management & Engineering from Clarkson University. He worked his entire career in the manufacturing field managing several different plants in Baltimore. His plants produced products as varied as lottery machine plastic cases, cell tower antennas, sheet metal aerospace parts, and the plastic capsules that hold the toys that are in gumball machines, just to name a few. In his position just prior to coming to CESJDS, Bill assisted in setting up the manufacturing portion of a company that did CNC machining and 3D printing.

A large portion of his role at CESJDS is preventive maintenance, and optimally, as he says "the less you know we're here, the better."

"Bill is not only masterful at his job but he is calm, helpful, and always positive. No matter what you ask him, he is happy to oblige. He makes everyone's life easier," said a colleague.

When he is not busy keeping the lights on at CESJDS, Bill can be found spending time with his wife and kids, reading, camping, or canoeing / kayaking at the lake near his home.

Hadas Heyman, Judaic Studies Teacher & Technology Mentor

Staff Spotlight: Hadas Heyman, Judaic Studies and Technology Mentor

Hadas Heyman teaches Judaic Studies at the CESJDS Lower School, and is also the Technology Mentor. She has been a part of the CESJDS family for over 16 years after growing up in Israel and spending five years in South Florida near her husband's family.

Hadas holds three degrees--a Bachelor's in Education, a Master's in Teaching English as a Second Language, and a Master's in Instructional Technology--which she recently completed in 2015.

In her role as Technology Mentor, she works with our entire Lower School Faculty to seamlessly integrate tools into the classroom, ultimately enhancing the individual and collective student learning experience. "My passion is technology," said Hadas.

CESJDS has exponentially increased its use of technology in the classroom in recent years including expanding its 1:1 laptop program down to 1st grade; integrating iPads into the kindergarten learning experience; teaching students how to appropriately use photos and video to complete a project or assignment; introducing online tools such as the SeeSaw digital portfolio, and much more.

Hadas lives in North Potomac with her husband, Jack, and her three children, Yoav, Avigyle, and Elad. Elad is in 4th grade at CESJDS. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and working out. "I love to learn and am constantly seeking a new challenge."

"Hadas's dedication towards her work is inspiring. She is an AMAZING colleague that is always willing to help others!" said one of her colleagues.

Cassandra Ly, Midde School Science

Staff Spotlight: Cassandra Ly, Middle School Science

Cassandra Ly teaches 7th and 8th grade science at CESJDS. She began her tenure smack in the middle of the 2015-2016 school year. "My boyfriend got a job offer in the DC area. He was actually the one that found the opening at CESJDS. My last day of work in Colorado was on January 28, and my first day here was on February 1," said Cassandra.

Cassandra received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder, though she didn't always know that she wanted to be a teacher. "I was sitting in organic chemistry, on the pre-med track to be a pediatrician, and had an a-ha moment that I wanted to work with kids, but not in a doctor's office!" she recalled. She also went onto pursue her Master's degree in Science Curriculum and Instruction

She began her career teaching 7th grade science at Westlake Middle School--the school district where she grew up. "It was very strange calling teachers that I had back in the day by their first names," she recalled.

Cassandra struggled with scientific concepts growing up, and strives to present science in an accessible way. She helps her students think like scientists--taking risks, making predictions and being curious--as well as how to communicate with other scientists.

"The students are the best and most stressful part of my job. Every day is different and unpredictable. They make me feel happy even on a bad day," she says.

Cassandra lives in Rockville with her boyfriend and her dog, a Siberian Husky named Haley. When she isn't budding the future scientists of America she can be found cooking, playing tennis, running, shopping, or cheering on her Denver Broncos from afar.

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