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Foundation Award Is All in the Family

November 08, 2000|ALLISON COHEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Longtime Emek Hebrew Academy educator Rabbi Philip Wachsman has received $10,000 from the Milken Family Foundation, which recognizes excellence in Jewish education.

The award was a surprise to Wachsman, who has taught at the Sherman Oaks school for 26 years and is currently its Jewish studies principal.

About 80 older students gathered recently in the assembly room to surprise Wachsman with the honor. "I was told they needed me upstairs," he said. "I had no idea."

As Jewish studies principal, Wachsman starts the school day by leading prayer and then works a myriad of tasks for the school's 550 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, such as observing classes, problem solving with teachers, attending field trips, teaching the Torah and helping students any way he can.

"I make it my business to speak to [students] every day, to . . . say something that will encourage them to study and feel good about themselves," he said.

Wachsman was nominated by the school's general studies principal, Joan Maxwell, who has worked with him for 10 years.

"He is just a phenomenal educator," she said. "I've never seen anyone that deals with students the way he does. They always leave his office saying, 'Thank you.' "

Wachsman's wife, Debbie, who teaches fifth- through eighth-grade girls at the school, was honored in 1995 by the same organization. The couple is the first in the award's 11-year history to receive the honor. The Wachsmans, of North Hollywood, have eight children.

"We hope we are not only a role model for our own children but for our extended family of the school," Wachsman said.

The annual Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Awards were founded in 1990 in cooperation with the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles to recognize teachers, administrators and other education professions in the area of Jewish education.

Other area winners this year were: Valley Village resident Elaine Wasserman, a kindergarten teacher at Temple Israel of Hollywood Day School in Hollywood; Valley Village resident Andi Schochet, a second-grade Judaic studies teacher at Maimonides Academy in Los Angeles; Granada Hills resident Kathy Reynolds, a science teacher at Milken Middle School in Los Angeles; and Ginny Zemtseff, a fourth-grade teacher at Sinai Akiba Academy in Los Angeles.

KUDOS

Scholarship Winners: David Danipour and Yevgenya "Jane" Shevtsov, both seniors at North Hollywood/Los Angeles Zoo Biology Magnet, are two of five high school students countywide to receive a $10,000 "Beat the Odds" scholarship from the Children's Defense Fund.

"These are kids that have risen above and have become shining examples of what we hope all youth today will become," said Kristen Jennings, a field director for the agency's Los Angeles office.

The students were selected on grades, community service, activities and determination to overcome obstacles in their lives. The award will be given in $2,000 increments over five years.

Founded in 1973, the nonprofit organization lobbies and works to educate others about children's needs, including affordable health care, child care and stopping violence in schools.

For more information or to fund future "Beat the Odds" scholarships, write to: P.O. Box 1068, Los Angeles, CA 90078.

PROGRAM NOTES

Class Reunions: The following high school classes will host reunions in 2001: San Fernando, class of 1960; Hart, class of 1991; Chatsworth, class of 1991; Burbank, class of 1991. Call (800) 827-8427 for details.

Teaching Fellowships: Applications are due Nov. 20 for the Governor's Teaching Fellowship Program--which provides $20,000 fellowships for student educators committed to teaching in low-performing schools. Candidates must be enrolled in a full-time teacher preparation program at Cal State University, University of California or an independent college or university and must make a four-year commitment.

The fellowships were established this year by Gov. Gray Davis to help shore up California's current teacher shortage. The awards will be given in January to the 250 most meritorious applicants. To download an application, see http://www.teacher-fellowship.calstate.edu or call (866) 824-7335.

END NOTES

A homework survival workshop will be held Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Huntington Learning Center at the Encino Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Suite 214. Featured will be tips for parents on improving children's study skills. To register or for information, call (818) 907-5555.

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Class Notes appears every Wednesday. Send news about schools to the Valley Edition, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Or fax it to (818) 772-3338.

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