Forty-four years ago Varda Cohen, 1st grade Judaic Studies teacher, began her career as a substitute teacher at the Solomon Schechter School at Ohr Kodesh, which would later become the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. At the conclusion of this school year, Varda will retire but she has certainly left her mark.
Varda initially wanted to be an architect but followed her mother's wishes to become a teacher.
"My parents are holocaust survivors, and I grew up in the shadow of that. I felt I needed to do things for my parents. My mother's dream during the holocaust was two folded; to have one loaf of bread only to herself and to show Hitler that he did not manage to destroy all the Jews. When we came to Israel, my father worked hard and we were not starving. My mother had her loaf of bread. I felt it was my legacy to make sure that Judaism and Jews survive. That's why it's important to me to see kids getting a Jewish education. So I do it for her, but I also really love it," said Varda.
Varda was raised and educated in Israel and served in the Israeli military before coming to the United States at age 21.
"I came here to practice my English. I wanted to be an English teacher in Israel. But then I started working with the younger kids and I really enjoyed it," said Varda.
Varda is a prime example of Torah Lishmah/Love of Learning as she is not just a teacher but an eternal student. She earned her B.A. in Education, M.A. in Counseling, an M.A. plus 30 credits in School Administration, and recently earned a degree in Interior Design from Montgomery College. Varda also played an instrumental role in designing and developing the Judaic Studies curriculum that was in place at CESJDS for many years.
Although she is looking forward to retirement, Varda says she will miss teaching and being with students on a daily basis.
"I've loved teaching. It gave me a purpose," she said. "The children give me a lot of pleasure, and you always know they care. Their comments are from their heart. They keep me young."
In her retirement, Varda is looking forward to traveling, with several trips already planned. Never one to stop learning, she would like to take classes in painting, jewelry making, and ceramics.