Meet Our Teachers

Preschool: Madie Kerch
kerch013@umn.edu

Biography

Originally from Highland Park, Illinois, Maddie came to Minneapolis for college at the University of Minnesota. She graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology with a focus in neuroscience. She started college being interested in research and brain development, but left with a wide range of interests and an internship that led to teaching. Maddie worked as tutoring coordinator and assistant pre-k teacher at Prodeo Academy, a charter school in North Minneapolis, before starting at Bet Shalom Yeladim.

Maddie has worked with kids for 12 years starting with babysitting neighbors and younger brother, to becoming a camp counselor, youth mentor, literacy tutor, and finally pre-kindergarten teacher before falling in love with toddlers! She has always enjoyed taking care of others and loves using play to assist in the learning and growth that happens so quickly in young children.

This year Maddie will be teaching in the Sagol classroom in the preschool during the week, and will also be starting as the preschool/pre-k religious school teacher on Sundays.

Outside of school, Maddie can be found lesson planning for future classroom fun, trying different restaurants and cafes around Minneapolis, and taking dance and fitness classes!

Preschool: Stacey  Edlavitch
staceyedlavitch@gmail.com

Biography

Stacey, her husband and two children, moved to the Twin Cities in 2015 from Wilmette, IL.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and a Master of Education in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Since 2003, Stacey has been teaching Special Education, first in the Chicago area continuing to the present in the Twin Cities.

Helping children build their self-esteem is one of Stacey’s passions.  She believes that dramatic arts and creative movement not only strengthens a child’s self-esteem, but helps to create a strength that will mold the child in his/her future endeavors.

In her spare time, Stacey and her family enjoy camping, fishing, going to the zoo, exploring the Science Museum, and attending theater (The Guthrie and The Children’s Theater).  Stacey can also be found singing with the choir at Bet Shalom, walking around the lakes with friends, reading the next book for the book club and cooking for family and friends.

Kindergarten: Jackie Weichman
jokey4u2@yahoo.com

Biography

Jackie was born and raised in the Twin Cities and then ventured off to The University of Kansas for college. She was lucky to get a teaching job upon graduation in the Overland Park, Kansas area where she taught third grade for 8 years and absolutely loved every minute of it.  Whether it was being a camp counselor, Sunday school teacher, or youth group leader, Judaism and kids have always been a big part of her life.

She is a proud wife and stay-at-home-mom! Her daughter Riley is starting second grade and her 4 year old son, Logan, will be here at Bet Shalom Yeladim in the Pre-K classroom three days a week. Besides moving to a brand new neighborhood at the beginning of the summer, her family also has a new kitten (named “Bella”) that they adopted a couple weeks ago! Besides spending quality time with her family,  she enjoys listening to music, socializing with friends, cheering on the Jayhawks during basketball season, and traveling.

She looks forward to meeting you and your child soon and values open-communication.  Please feel free to contact her at anytime with any questions or concerns you might have about your child’s education.

First Grade: Jennifer Ebner
jennifer.ebner17@gmail.com

Biography

Second Grade: Kelly Weinblatt
klfeldman@hotmail.com

Biography

Kelly Weinblatt is starting her tenth year teaching at Bet Shalom and has taught both 2nd and 7th grade.  She currently works full time in Marketing.  She is also a fellow 2nd grade parent as she is the mom to both a 2nd grader and a 5th grader.

Second Grade: Mark Price
mprice@threebridge.com

Biography

Mark was born in New York City and lived for 17 years in Stamford, Connecticut.  He graduated from Haverford College with a double degree in English and Spanish, and then got his MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School.  When not working as a Solution Partner for Smart Data for ThreeBridge Solutions, a consulting firm, Mark is an avid Crossfitter, plays and follows tennis, is passionate about Liverpool in the English Premier League and obsesses about Really Big Dogs (RBD’s) .  He is also a storyteller and brings that skill to frequent use in the classroom.

Mark has been teaching religious school at Bet Shalom for the past 17 years.  While traditionally teaching second grade, Mark has also taught first grade, seventh grade and post-confirmation.  He has been trained in Responsive Classroom, All Kinds of Minds, and Teach Like a Champion approaches.

Third Grade: Heidi Roston
hsroston1@gmail.com

Biography

Heidi grew up in Crystal, Minnesota and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Throughout her life, she has dedicated a lot of her time teaching children. She has worked with toddlers in preschool, school age children in public school and just after college, she worked in the hospitals taking newborn baby portraits. Besides working as an infant teacher at Shalom Yeladim, she teaches third grade and is a Bar/Bar Mitzvah tutor in the Bet Shalom Religious School. She believes that some of the most important skills to have when working with children is patience, flexibility, and love. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, spending time with her family, and reading.

Fourth Grade: Kelsey Toetschinger
kbtoetschiger@gmail.com

Biography

Kelsey is starting her third year at Bet Shalom.  She has taught eighth grade and added fourth grade last year.  She has her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and her master’s degree in Special Education.  Outside of Bet Shalom, she is starting her ninth year of teaching special education.  She also teaches dance club at her school.  At home, Kelsey enjoys spending time with her twoyearold, Henry, husband James, dog Kasia, and cats Jack and Abby.

Fourth Grade: Julie Friedman
julie.s.friedman@gmail.com

Biography

Julie Friedman has always been passionate about facilitating others in Jewish understanding and helping youth connect to their Jewish identity.  From her years as a teen counselor at Camp Tikvah Day Camp in Illinois to her first full-time job as a youth advisor at Siegel JCC in Delaware, she feels like she is always drawn back to her roots in Judaism. While teaching middle school science in New Jersey, she spent her free time heavily involved with her synagogue, leading Pray and Play (their monthly preschool Shabbat program) and teaching second grade religious school classes.

Julie is excited to begin her second year teaching religious school at Bet Shalom. Julie and her family relocated to Minnesota in 2018 and are excited to be part of such a welcoming community at Bet Shalom.

When Julie is not teaching at religious school, you can find her cooking, playing in the dirt in her garden, or having a fun time with her family.

Fifth Grade: Suzy Lurie
suzylurie@hotmail.com

Biography

Suzy Lurie is excited to begin her third year as a Religious School teacher. After growing up in Highland Park, Illinois and earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music from Northwestern University, Suzy lived all over the country with her opera-singing husband and had plenty of adventures. Becoming a mom and landing back in the Midwest has turned out to the best adventure of all! Suzy is glad to have found such a wonderful community at Bet Shalom and considers teaching Religious School to be the best job ever! Outside of work, she loves to hang out with her husband, Matt, and explore new places with her kids, Riley (6) and Brooklynn (3).

Fifth Grade: Geri Goldman
glgoldman@aol.com, ggoldman@karben.com

Biography

Geri grew up in the Twin Cities, and then moved to Madison to attend college at UW, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology. Geri taught in Madison public schools for many years, as well as at the Madison Jewish Day School and local religious schools.

Geri moved back to MN in 2015 to be closer to her extended family. She currently lives in Plymouth with her wife and two-year-old daughter, who attends preschool at Bet Shalom. Geri works in customer service at Kar-Ben Publishing, the largest publisher of exclusively Jewish-themed children’s books. Outside of work, Geri enjoys children’s literature, music, theater, and spending time with her family. This will be her 2nd year teaching at Religious School at Bet Shalom.

Fifth Grade: Michele Segal
michele@actifi.com

Biography

This is Michele Segal’s third year teaching 5th grade at Bet Shalom. Michele graduated from the University of Minnesota with a psychology degree. She is also a substitute teacher for the preschool at Bet Shalom.

Michele is married and has 3 children. Her oldest is a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Her middle son is a senior at Hopkins High School. And her youngest is a sophomore at Hopkins High School.

Michele is looking forward to getting to know all of the kids and having a great year of learning and fun!

Sixth Grade: Robin Altman
robin@altmansoftwaredesign.com

Biography

Robin Altman started working at Bet Shalom back in 1992 as a sign language interpreter. After she finished student teaching, she started teaching 3rd grade here at Bet Shalom. After her son, Benji, was born she switched to Hebrew tutoring until her daughter, Shoshi, was 2. Then she took a 13-year “sabbatical”. She came back in 2015 to teach 3rd grade again. This year Robin is teaching 6th grade.

Robin graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BS in Elementary Education with an emphasis in American Sign Language. She also works with children in many other places: as a special ed paraprofessional at Hopkins North Jr High School and as a chess coach at Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, Zachary Lane Elementary School, Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion Elementary School, and North Jr High School.

Robin loves helping kids succeed with learning new things and helping them realize how capable they are; especially teaching them how to read or to learn new chess strategies and tactics.

Robin’s son, Benji, is 23 and he is working with Robin teaching 6th grade here at Bet Shalom. Her daughter, Shoshi, is 19 and is now a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. Robin keeps busy taking care of the families pets: two dogs, two cats, and a bird.

In her spare time, Robin likes to play games and have fun with her family and friends. She is looking forward to the adventures she will have with this 6th grade class, half of whom she had when they were in 3rd grade.

Sixth Grade: Benji Altman
benji@altmansoftwaredesign.com

Biography

Benji was born in Saint Louis Park and grew up in Plymouth. He attended the Minneapolis Jewish Day School for elementary and middle school. In high school, Benji continued his Jewish education through Talmud Torah. During this time, he got the opportunity to spend two months at Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Benji recently graduated college from Hamline University in St. Paul with a double major in Math and Computer Science. This is Benji’s second year working at the Bet Shalom religious school. Last year he volunteered with the Hebrew Through Movement program and substitute taught a couple of times. This year Benji will be working along side his mother, Robin, teaching sixth grade.

Seventh Grade: Jim Barnett
jamesbarnett1517@gmail.com

Biography

Jim is a true Minnesotan! He was born on the north side of Minneapolis and raised in St. Louis Park. After college, he spent the next 43 Years in the family business with his father, Harold, and brother, Bruce. Jim loves spending his time with his family, including his wife, Ardis, who brings him joy every day, son, Adam, daughter and soninlaw, Alison and Mitch, and his two grandchildren, Levi and Geoffrey. Jim is starting his 3rd year teaching at Bet Shalom. He looks forward to each and every Sunday engaging with his students. He is especially thankful for the support he receives from the staff, congregation, and most of all, the parents of his students.

Seventh Grade: Margaret Kienitz
mekienitz@gmail.com

Biography

Margaret Kienitz is starting her first year as a 7th grade Religious School Teacher at Bet Shalom. Margaret grew up in the Madison, WI area, and moved to Minneapolis after graduating from college. When she is not teaching at Religious School, she works as the Grants Manager for the Minnesota Disability Law Center at Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. In her free time, you can find Margaret reading, playing trivia, and going to the farmer’s market. She is excited to continue to get to know the Bet Shalom community, and share her passion for Jewish Education with the 7th grade class!

Eighth Grade: Jennifer Ebner
jennifer.ebner17@gmail.com

Biography

Eighth Grade: Kelsey Toetschinger
kbtoetschiger@gmail.com

Biography

Kelsey is starting her third year at Bet Shalom.  She has taught eighth grade and added fourth grade last year.  She has her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and her master’s degree in Special Education.  Outside of Bet Shalom, she is starting her ninth year of teaching special education.  She also teaches dance club at her school.  At home, Kelsey enjoys spending time with her twoyearold, Henry, husband James, dog Kasia, and cats Jack and Abby.

Ninth Grade: Rachel Calvert
rachel.calvert@betshalom.org

Biography

Rachel Calvert is starting her first year as a teacher at Bet Shalom Congregation. Rachel is also Bet Shalom’s B’nai Mitzvah Coordinator, and has been an office staff at Bet Shalom for two years. Rachel grew up at Bet Shalom, and looks forward to teaching at the same religious school she attended as a youngster. A graduate of Hopkins High School, Rachel went on to study English, Education, and Spanish at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI. Rachel is a musician who performs with the band Barbaro as a fiddler and vocalist. When she is not working, performing, or practicing, she enjoys spending time with her Chihuahua named Bambi.

Hebrew and P2G Coordinator: Gayle Kaplan
gazelle928@gmail.com

Biography

Gayle has taken on a new position this year, as both the coordinator for the revised Hebrew language program and the coordinator for school twinning.  (Bet Shalom is in our second year of twinning with Navon, an elementary school in Rehovot Israel.)  For the past 11 years, she has taught Hebrew, Torah, holidays, and Jewish history, among other subjects, to students in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades.

Gayle grew up in the Boston metro and graduated from Brown University with a BA in psychology.  She later received a MBA from Northwestern University and worked in Chicago for several years before moving to Minneapolis almost 30 years ago.  Gayle worked in market research on both the vendor and client sides, focusing on customer loyalty.  After leaving the business world, she taught business skills to immigrants at the Minnesota Resource Center. Gayle has loved the opportunity to teach at Bet Shalom’s Religious School where she can focus on her passion for all things Jewish.

Gayle serves on two Minneapolis Jewish Federation committees: The Education Committee, and Partnership2Gether, which deals with Minneapolis and our twin city Rehovot, Israel.  She is also a volunteer guardian ad litem for Hennepin County.

Gayle is married with one son.  She enjoys walking her dogs, reading and planting her new butterfly garden (in progress).  She also loves to travel, especially to Israel.

Preschool-2nd grade Hebrew Specialist: Larry Eisenstadt larry.eisenstadt@state.mn.us

Biography

Larry Eisenstadt was born and bred in Brooklyn, New York but has now adopted Minnesota as his true home.   He still maintains his Brooklyn accent with pride. He went to the same high school (James Madison) as such famous people as Bernie Sanders, Norm Coleman, Charles Schumer (his classmate), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the greatest jurist of all……..JUDGE JUDY. Larry loves teaching the young students of Bet Shalom recognizing the great potential that each of these children possess. He works for the State of Minnesota full time in administering publicly funded youth employment and training programs.  He lives in the East Metro area of the Twin Cities but truly enjoys making the trip over to West Metro realizing the eagerness of our children to learn.

3rd-6th Hebrew Specialist: Orly Ni
ovardeny@umn.edu

Student Support Staff: Jessica Koolick
jessicakoolick@gmail.com

Biography

Jessica Koolick is starting her second year working as a Paraprofessional at Bet Shalom’s Religious School.  She supports teachers and works directly with individual students to support successful participation and learning within the classroom environment. Jessica completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, and her graduate degree in School Psychology at the University of Minnesota.  Outside of Bet Shalom, she works as a School Psychologist at a K-8 special education facility that serves students with complex learning, behavioral, and social/emotional needs. In her free time, she enjoys playing trivia, spending time outside, and exploring the Twin Cities with her girlfriend (and fellow Religious School teacher), Margaret.