Recipient: Rabbi Hillel Van Leeuwen
Number of years teaching: 10
Subject: Rabbinics and he is the Director of Student Activities
Inspiration/Motivation for being a Teacher of Excellence:
Rabbi Van Leeuwen loves people. His biggest enjoyment is being with students. He is not obsessed with marks but with seeing students develop. He was a commander in the Israeli army and also loved to see his young soldiers develop.
He is motivated by his students, particularly when they show an interest in interacting with him outside of the classroom, and for him teaching is mainly a relationship outside the class. He says “it is like my whole family is involved in my class.”
As Rabbi Van Leeuwen returns to Israel at the end of June he wants to encourage teachers to appreciate the little things in life. For example, he says, in Toronto there is a huge number per capita of students enrolled in Jewish Day schools. This is keeping the flame alive and teachers get to have a huge role in this.
Rabbi Van Leeuwen was nominated by one of his students. She wrote:
As a shaliach, we expected Rav Van Leeuwen, to be another non-English speaking teacher who would come into the CHAT community and leave three years later without making any evident impact on the school. We immediately noticed his welcoming smile, his Chicago accent and his fluency with English. He was always very understanding of our needs and recognized when our workload was at a climatic point. We all learned a greater appreciation both for Judaism and Israel through Rav’s teachings. Rav made many extra efforts to better the school and help the students: accompanying trips, taking us to a rally for Israel, inviting us for Shabbat dinners and conducting Monday night learning sessions for past students.
He made a direct contribution to my life when my mother died. He was more than understanding of my needs and constantly made sure that I was comfortable with the learning material as he taught me the topic of Death and Mourning in the Jewish way. I would like nothing more than for him to end his final year as a shaliach at CHAT with an award that recognizes all of the wonderful things he has done for the school and its students.