CESJDS Staff Spotlight

CESJDS has top-notch educators! Learn more about the talented and passionate faculty and staff at CESJDS.

Natasha Oksenhendler ‘94, RN, Head Nurse

Natasha Oksenhendler ‘94, RN, Head Nurse, was born in Moscow, and came to the United States with her family when she was five years old. After initially living in the Midwest, her parents moved their family to Maryland when Natasha was 14 years old. Coming from a place where her parents had no religious freedom, it was important to them that their children felt comfortable where they were, and with their identity. That wish led all five of the Ginsburg kids to attend JDS. “When I started at JDS I was welcomed into the community right away,” Natasha said. “Everyone was very welcoming, and warm. We felt like we belonged right away.”

After graduating from JDS, Natasha took some time to figure out what she wanted to do, while attending classes at Montgomery College. She then transferred to the University of Maryland pursue a degree in Journalism. Natasha began her career working in TV broadcasting and radio, which led her to become a reporter for NBC 25 Hagerstown. She would also meet her husband, Jason, at NBC 25 where he was an anchor.

An opportunity in West Virginia led the couple to relocate for three years, where Natasha hosted her own radio show. While Natasha enjoyed hosting and experiencing a new place, it was hard being away from family and she missed a strong Jewish community connection. The couple then moved to New York to be close to family members, and welcomed their first child. This was the time that she really honed in on her next professional goal, becoming a nurse. 

After moving back to Maryland, Natasha completed her Nursing degree at Montgomery College. After finishing her degree, she began work at Shady Grove Hospital, where she experienced many different departments. Working in the ER became Natasha’s niche, where the fast paced, high intensity environment was a perfect fit. 

After the birth of her third child, Natasha decided to step away from the ER and applied for a position at her alma mater. Natasha began working at JDS in 2016 and it was immediately clear that her new position was the perfect fit for her family, and our community. 

Working as Head Nurse at JDS has been extremely rewarding for Natasha. “I feel like the parents, and whole community have been extremely supportive of my work,” Natasha said. “It’s been great to work with them and build relationships over the years, working together on their child’s health.” 

During these unprecedented times, Natasha has felt that community support even more. Working as a School Nurse during a pandemic is not something anyone could have predicted, however through these challenges, Natasha is happy to have the platform to make a difference. “I love challenges, that’s why I went into Emergency Medicine,” Natasha said. “It’s an amazing thing to be able to make a difference in people’s lives, whether it’s bringing someone back from the brink, having an impact on a child’s day-to-day health, or their long-term care.”

Abigail Rothstein, Middle School English and Humanities Teacher

Staff Spotlight

Abigail Rothstein, Middle School English and Humanities Teacher, knew her life was destined for academics from the age of four years old. Having grown up in LA and knowing she wasn't interested in going into "the biz" led her 3,000 miles away to Brandeis University in Boston. At Brandeis, Abigail received a Bachelor's Degree Education Policy with a minor in Environmental Studies, and a Masters Degree in Secondary Education.

Teaching was always in the cards for Abigail, who would play "school" as a child. She could usually be found teaching "lessons" to her younger sister and stuffed animals, using a whiteboard, attendance sheet, and her prized teacher's edition textbook from a class she had completed the previous year.

Finding her passion for education so young led Abigail to consider a career in education policy, where she would focus on the sociological and philosophical study of education. Volunteer work that she did during her undergraduate degree, including work with Outdoor Education, and the Children's Defense Fund Freedom School, led her to contemplate educational changes at a macro level and how they could be implemented.

When deciding her next step to be able to make the most difference, it was clear that being in the classroom was where she belonged. "I do believe that change happens on a grassroots level, in the classroom one day at a time, one student at a time," Abigail said. "I think after contemplating the issues in education through my past experiences made me notice that each person on the ground, each teacher, was doing the hardest work."

Abigail took her first teaching job here at CESJDS in 2018 working with Middle School students. "There is so much beauty in teaching students of this age," Abigail said. "The students are able to explore, and question everything put in front of them and that is a huge part of my [teaching philosophy]. I want to produce critical thinkers and more developed writers."

Abigail feels rewarded as a teacher when she notices her students' confidence, as she struggled with classroom confidence herself. "To see a student who has been struggling with confidence in their academic identity get something, or feel empowered by something is really what makes me feel good about teaching." Aesthetics are also very important to Abigail, who spends time curating her lessons to include strong visuals, and multimedia pieces along with traditional elements. She is also the leader of the Green Team, where she facilitates a group of students taking on yearly environmental projects. This year the groups goal is to "adopt" an Australian koala that was displaced after the recent wildfires.

Outside of work Abigail is interested in yoga, meditation, hiking, and camping. She enjoys hanging out with her friend group in downtown DC and is also active in several groups for young professional Jews. Abigail's biggest passion is travel and is currently planning a trip through the Soutwestern states.

After moving to the area only a year ago, the CESJDS community has been instrumental in helping Abigail build her life in DC. "I immediately just gravitated towards our community," Abigail said. "I have found some of my closest friends at JDS. The level of support I receive here professionally and personally is invaluable."

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