Leaving the den

Harry Davidson, Managing Editor, Copy

Upper School Nurse Heather Greenblum:

Upper School nurse Heather Greenblum will be leaving the school after four years to enjoy some time off after the work she put in to help the school deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. While she wasn’t initially planning on taking a full-time job as a nurse, she took on the big role and has been thrown into the spotlight during the unprecedented last two years, which included having to deal with COVID tests, positive cases and health concerns from parents. Although she is leaving, she will remain working as a substitute nurse at both the Lower and Upper Schools.  

“I love the kids. I love the students. I’m a pediatric nurse so my number one thing is taking care of kids so I love having the kids come in and I love having all this independence to talk to kids without their parents being around, and I am kind of the one health care professional in the building. It is really nice to be looked at that way and respected and consulted so much so that is 100% what I will miss.”

Learning Specialist Brett Kugler: 

Learning specialist Brett Kugler is assuming the role of Middle School Dean of Students and Director of Educational Support Services at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy. In this position, Kugler will focus on giving students individual attention to make them stronger students. Through being a grade adviser and working with many kids individually during his role as a learning specialist, he has formed great bonds with the students, faculty and alumni during his time at the school. 

“This place has been my home for the past 16 years and will be a place that I look forward to coming back to visit frequently. The relationships that I have built with students, alumni, staff and administrators will be lifelong, and I truly believe that I am the person that I am today because of each individual I have interacted with. This does not feel like goodbye, because I know that I will stay in touch with so many people.”

Assistant Director of College Guidance Kimberly Wilkins:

Assistant Director of College Guidance Kimberly Wilkins will leave the school to become the Director of College Counseling at a private school in Gainesville, Florida, near where she grew up and where a lot of her family lives. While she is not Jewish, in her 12 years at JDS she said she has learned about the values of Judaism and how she can apply them to her everyday life. She appreciates that the school she is going to emphasizes those similar morals. 

“I’ve had a wonderful experience here, and so it’s bittersweet. But I would characterize my experiences as wonderful and amazing and one I will always remember… This community has been amazing, and I’ll really miss Ms. Rexford quite a bit and my little guidance crew.”

Middle School English Teacher Tamar Gasko: 

After three years at CESJDS, English teacher and alumna Tamar Gasko (‘12) will be leaving to attend graduate school at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where she will pursue a Masters of Science in speech-language pathology. There is a wide variety of fields that Gasko can explore with this degree, such as working as a speech therapist with either kids or adults. She has always been interested in linguistics and communication, which is why she decided to take this next step. Gasko hopes to remain connected with the CESJDS community.  

“Once I decided I wanted to go to grad school for speech-language pathology, I started taking classes to prepare, but knowing that I was going to be leaving didn’t change how much I’ve loved being a teacher here. I enjoy giving as much as I can of myself to my students, and that’s not going to stop just because I am going to grad school.”

Spanish Teacher Deby Kijak: 

After 11 years of working at CESJDS, Upper School Spanish teacher and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Deby Kijak will be leaving to work as the director of a world language program at Concord Hill Elementary School. In this new role, she will teach students from first grade through third grade and develop a new Spanish language curriculum. She will use her experience working with diversity at CESJDS to guide her in what to include in the new curriculum. Leaving the school is a bittersweet experience for her, as she has formed strong relationships with her students.

“I am also going to miss being a grade adviser… I love teaching Spanish, but the connections that I have with kids outside the classroom, even the ones that aren’t my students, is something that I will definitely miss.”

Jewish History Department Chair Aaron Bregman: 

Next year, Jewish History Department Chair Aaron Bregman will further pursue his educa†ion as the Associate Director of High School Affairs at the American Jewish Committee (AJC), an organization committed to advocating for Jews in America. In this role, Bregman will be responsible for all national programming through AJC that involves high school students. After 10 years of working at the school, he hopes that he can take his experience and apply it to his new career opportunity.

“I love teaching. I love being a classroom teacher. But the question always nagged me, which was is there anything else that I haven’t done yet? I felt like it was one of those things I had to do and if I fail at it, then I know that maybe this wasn’t to be. But I don’t know, I could be really great at it.”

Middle School Science Teacher Gilah Barker: 

Middle school science teacher Gilah Barker is leaving to pursue other opportunities following two years at CESJDS. After becoming a new teacher at the school right in the midst of COVID-19, they said their experience at the school was challenging, particularly trying to bond with students online. Because Barker was at a higher risk of COVID, they chose to teach online when many of their students began attending in person. Part of the reason they are choosing to leave the school is because of their concern over loosening COVID precautions at the end of this school year and going into next year. However, even through trying circumstances, Barker has enjoyed their time here and been able to successfully connect with their students and other teachers. 

“One of my fears being over   Zoom was how I was going to get to know people, but since I’ve been back in person, it has just been an amazing group of people,” Barker said. “It was a really hard decision [to leave] because this is my favorite job that I’ve ever had, and I’ve been at a few different schools now.”