Dear Parents,

Welcome Back!  What a surprise - not two days after returning from winter break - to find ourselves in the midst of a winter storm and snow day!  It's days like these, vacation days and snow days, when it becomes clear that investing in family time is so important.  We all have childhood memories of vacation trips or lazy days at home, playing indoors or outside on snow days.  Amazingly, it's usually not the most glamorous of experiences that stay with us, but rather the simple joyous moments of laughing, relaxing and being together.  In today's modern, busy hectic lifestyle, we can sometimes forget the value of these moments.  And yet... while the distraction of technology or the pressures of an over-scheduled day can pull us apart from each other, the time we take to truly be present for our children and families will always come back to us double-fold or more. Taking "the long view" is important in remembering what matters most.  Before long, our children will be grown and out of the house and we will look back at this time as the very best years of our lives.  Every laugh, tickle or hug is a life-long investment that will stay with them and with us forever.  The tighter our bond with our children and between each other, the stronger the relationships among all the family members even when they enter their adolescent and adult lives.  The first step begins with a cup of cocoa and a board game on a snow day!

Here's to family days together! 

Looking forward to seeing all students bright and early Monday morning,

Chani Okonov, Head of School

Table of Contents

  • Preschool Highlights: It All Starts with a Book on a Cozy Day
  • Lower School Highlights: A Time For Change: Goal Setting
  • Middle School Highlights: Math and Science Explorations
  • Jewish Learning and Literacy: Parsha Inspirations
  • Parent Partnership: Transform your Morning Routine
  • Teacher Feature: Spotlight on Morah Rivky Balser

Upcoming Events

  • Screenagers Parent Viewing (Grades 2-8): January 11th 
  • Professional Development Day (K-8): January 15th (Preschool Open)
  • Lower School Admissions Open House: January 18th
  • Preschool Parent Teacher Conferences: January 22-30 (date varies per class)
  • Tu B'Shvat Festival: January 31st

It All Starts with a Book on a Cozy Day

Do you love books? Every time I think of a snowy day or a rainy day, I know that my day will be enriched with a cup of cocoa and a good book.  

Where does the love of reading come from? When do we fall in love with reading?  When I was a child, our house had a big and tall bookshelf, from the ceiling to the floor, shelves heavy with books.  The children's books were placed on the second to the bottom shelf. My brother and I could reach them any time we wanted. As we grew taller and our interests grew wider, we were reaching for the books on the top shelves. My parents read to us, they told us stories and sang songs.

According to recent research, this is exactly what helps children become better readers and perform better in school.  Even more, there is a tight correlation between children’s vocabulary at three years old and their reading level in third grade. Amazing facts! Amazing brains!  In Mazel, we use it all; we read, we tell and make stories, we sing songs with fun and excitement. 

We follow their leads. We learn children's interests, ask what they like to read about, and give them choices. 

We create a reading nook, a spot in the classroom where kids can easily access the books and read them with friends. 

We create a book-loving environment where children’s efforts at learning to read and write are positively supported and expanded.

We make stories with kids and play-act them out taking on different roles and characters. 

Here, at "Little Mazel", we provide opportunities that enhance children’s desires to communicate, their curiosity about the world around them and their sense of competence as readers and writers.

With warmth,

Morah Inna Izman, Early Childhood Director

Snow Day Moments from Little Mazel

A Time For Change: Goal Setting

Upon entering your local fitness facility on January 1st, you'll take notice of how significantly crowded it is. There is something about the transition from 2017 to 2018, from trimester to trimester, that sparks a desire to set resolutions for ourselves; find areas in our lives that can use a bit of sharpening. 

As I walked in and out of Mazel Day School classrooms on our first day back from break, I was so deeply impressed by the focus and concentration each and every student put forth. There was a newfound drive in the air making it evident that most students hit a reset button over their vacation to return to school stronger and even more determined to learn and succeed!

It's always the right time to set goals! Throughout the past few days, I overheard teachers encouraging their students to set new aims and reflect on what they would like to improve or work on during the second half of the school year, across all subject areas and about themselves.

Now is a great time to set goals to support academic success at home, too. Think small, specific and attainable. For example, create a fun challenge:

  • add five extra minutes to your daily reading for a month
  • start homework 10 minutes earlier
  • Do an extra math problem a day
  • Learn a new word daily for a week
  • Write a sentence more than you did the day before

The truth of the matter is that every day is a good day to set new goals. Why not take advantage of the new trimester and take this opportunity to celebrate the possibilities and strive to make them reality!

I look forward to all the wonderful things that Mazel Day School students will achieve throughout this trimester and the rest of the year!

Sonya Finkel-Levy, Lower School Principal

Take a Peak at Our Learning!

Kindergarteners show what they know about world geography!

Kindergarten illustrates & labels pictures of communities in Social Studies!

Back to work after a long break: focused kindergarteners ready to achieve!

First graders in learning mode, putting their flourishing writing skills to work.

Third graders deeply involved in Reader's Workshop exploration and understanding of a new genre:  Fantasy vs. Realism.

Sweet Math: Investigations

Students are using brownies and twizzlers as we explore the division of fractions.
Students demonstrated their understanding by cutting up brownies and dividing them into fractions by multiplying by reciprocals.

Newton's Laws of Motion

To demonstrate their understanding of machines and Newton’s Laws of Motion, 6th graders designed and constructed catapults in a marshmallow-launching competition. Students collaborated in teams to build a catapult that would launch a marshmallow and hit the designated target most accurately from the farthest distance. It took some trial and error (and a lot of marshmallows), but each team was successfully able to build a proper marshmallow-launching catapult.

Jewish Population Control

Excerpted from the "Parsha Family Guide" attached.  Click the link to read more...

The story of this week's Parshah (Exodus 1:1-6:1) begins with the enslavement and bitter bondage of the Israelites in Egypt. In spite of the back-breaking oppression, the hardship and humiliation, the Jewish people would be forged in the fiery furnace of exile. Jewish women, in particular, are given much of the credit for our eventual deliverance. In the merit of the righteous women of that generation was Israel redeemed from Egypt (Talmud, Sotah 11b). The most important contribution of the women then was that they were prepared to bring children into the world despite the most impossible living conditions. Furthermore, it was they who encouraged the men to raise families during their slavery. The Talmud recounts how the women would soothe their husbands in the fields, charming and easing them into intimacy. Through their dedication was a generation born.

And today?


Transform Your Morning Routine

Morning routines can be hectic and stressful.  Using a visual chart or checklist of all the morning tasks that need to get done is an extremely effective method to achieving greater self-sufficiency among children.  Here are a variety of Sample Morning Routine Charts / Checklists for you to browse.  Choose a style that you like best.  The visual can be sign posted on the child's bedroom wall or a checklist where they mark off each task as they go along.

A chart, though, is only one piece of a more global picture about the way in which morning routines flow in your home.  Here are some more expert tips from Dr. Marcie Biegel for parents to make your morning thriving, calm and collected with your children: Transform Your Morning Routine

This week's Spotlight: Morah Rivky

This week, we proudly share an interview with Morah Rivky Balser, our Kindergarten General Studies Teacher.


BIO: I grew up in Brighton Beach on Corbin place then moved 2 blocks away to Manhattan Beach where I lived for the duration of my childhood. As of five years ago I moved to West Orange, NJ and still commute to Mazel every day because it is the place I grew to love. I am a NYS certified teacher and have a Masters degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Bank Street Graduate School. I hold a double BA in Early Childhood General Ed as well as in Children and Youth Studies, which I received from Brooklyn College. Currently I am the youth director of my neighborhood synagogue and coordinate multiple child friendly programs. I have experience teaching in a wide variety of educational settings, working with children with special needs in an ICT class in the New York City Public Schools, at the Childhood Development Center in Manhattan, at Chabad Hebrew Sunday schools, as well as having worked in a number of classrooms at Mazel Day School for the past 9 years.

I Joined Mazel because… To me Mazel Day School isn’t just a school, it is a family. It is a warm, friendly, and caring environment for the teachers and students. It is the place  I joined many years ago, at such a young age, that led me on the path to becoming the teacher I am today. It is a place where everyone feels at home; a place most people call their second home. As a teacher, Mazel to me is the best place to work. It’s a place that has many resources and the highest standards for education. Mazel Day School follows all the top of the line teaching methods and educational philosophies that I have learned in Graduate school and is a model for teaching and learning. After being at Mazel Day School for such a long period of time, I have gained so much insight to their teaching methods but yet, every day I feel like I have more to discover. The school is empowered with stability, confidence, and enthusiasm for education. The staff is made up of warm, dedicated, and motivated educators that I am happy to be a part of.

I became a teacher because... I love children. Children are our future and to be able to get the chance to look into a child’s eyes and teach them about their world is gratifying. As a child, school was challenging to me.  Therefore, I set out to become a teacher to teach children in a way that they feel most comfortable learning. Children learn in multiple ways and I believe it is my job to use my creativity to teach them in the best way they can learn and succeed to their full potential.

My vision for our children… is to walk away from Kindergarten feeling confident in what they learned and are capable of doing. I want each of my students to reach their own individual goals and walk away with a sense of accomplishment.

The most difficult part of teaching Kindergarten is… nothing. I’m kidding, of course there are many challenges a kindergarten teacher faces. From teaching the children the dynamics of school to watching them grow and develop into elementary school aged kids. Kindergarten is a hard age because they are still little and yet have this huge building of older children surrounding them and so much learning to accomplish. The most difficult part of teaching for me is helping them navigate their new environment, helping them learn to be independent for themselves and through learning, and helping them mature through kindness with each other and confidence in who they are.

My best advice to parents… is to allow your kids to be kids. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m teaching 5 and 6 year olds and that they have only been on this earth for such a short time, that they find the simplest things hysterically funny, and look up at me as the most admired person in the room. When in the classroom and teaching I enjoy allowing them to be kids (while making it educational), by having the time to learn through exploration, and by trial and error. Every child has the time to learn but they are children for only so long and why not let them be while they still can.

If I can teach my students only one thing what would it be… I would teach them to have confidence in themselves. I believe that everything starts with confidence and good self esteem. As I teach, my most important goal is to enhance my students abilities by letting them feel a sense of pride, joy, and accomplishment in everything they do. There are no mistakes and no wrong answers because we learn from our struggles and through them we gain a deeper understanding of our learning. As my little Kindergarteners grow up I know that if i give them good self esteem and confidence that they can accomplish anything they put their minds too.

If I would have not become a teacher I would have become… a child psychologist or special education therapist. I truly enjoy working with children and feel that I have a natural way in forming a bond with them. I especially enjoy working with children which may be struggling as I find it accomplishing and enjoyable to understand what may be hard for them and how as a team (the child and I) can work together to work through the struggles they may be facing.

A trick I use in the classroom is… listening to music and having an organized and child friendly environment. If you walk into my classroom during breakfast or lunch you would see the lights off, light up disco speakers on, and educational music playing as background noise. Since eating time is a social setting we have some children deep in conversation while other children are singing along about various topics such as the water cycle, math, or the seven continents. I believe some children learn through song so why not play them as background music for those children to sing along.

Another trick is an organized and child friendly classroom. By the room being uncluttered, the teacher modeling organization, and the children learning where everything is and belongs, it allows the children to have a space where they are in control. I believe in a classroom where they can independently navigate and use to the fullest potential for learning, exploring, and fun.

Outside of school I like to… Spend time with friends and family, walk my two dogs, play ice hockey, go out for dinner, go ice skating, bike riding, swimming, and think about what more I can bring to the classroom for my students.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Candle Lighting Time: 4:25 PM

Shabbat Ends: 5:29 PM

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Mazel Day School

2901 Brighton 6th Street

60 West End Avenue