Where Joyful Meets Jewish

The Newman School of Talmud Torah of St. Paul has been described by parents as “one big family.” That’s because relationships are at the very heart of the Newman School philosophy. Not to sound trite, but it truly is a place where “everybody knows your name.” When students walk through the front doors each morning, they are greeted by familiar faces with high fives and hugs. They eat lunch family style with their teachers. They gather together for Kabbalat Shabbat on Fridays, lighting candles, and sharing challah and juice. The families of the small, growing school see themselves as a community, sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows as they navigate the parenting journey together.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the Newman School embraces a Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy which places relationships at the very heart of the learning experience. That philosophy is reflected in a school culture that encircles the student with three “teachers”: the parent, the classroom teacher, and the environment. These three “teachers” in relationship with each other ignite and guide student learning. Collaboratively, they empower students to be curious co-creators of their learning experience.

Walking into a Newman School classroom you’ll immediately notice the spacious, bright classrooms. You’ll see natural elements like plants, stones, flowers, and textiles incorporated into learning environments. These classrooms have been organized and designed by Newman teachers with great intentionality to optimize students’ creative exploration. Inspired by their environment, you’ll see students initiating and implementing any number of projects ranging from social justice initiatives to art projects to advanced STEM challenges. In alignment with Reggio philosophy, you won’t see a lot of worksheets and seat work; instead you’ll see hands-on learning and investigating as children guide their own learning through questioning and exploration. This allows children to grow and evolve at their own pace in their own way. As a parent of a recent graduate remarked, “At Newman, our child was never just part of a crowd and never lost in the shuffle. He was his own remarkable, complicated individual at every turn.”

The Reggio philosophy is an unexpected but natural fit for a Jewish Day School. Both Jewish and Reggio educational philosophies emphasize curiosity and questioning as a primary means of learning. At Newman, Jewish values and traditions are interwoven throughout the school day as teachers recognize that wonder, gratitude, and joy are all aspects of the human soul. Thus, the curriculum includes time each day for the cultivation of these attributes. During daily life at Newman, teachers take full advantage of opportunities to practice these habits of character (middot) essential for learning to live in community. These include respect, responsibility, perseverance, kindness, and generosity.

While maintaining a Jewish focus, Newman students are encouraged to see the world through multiple lenses as they grow to understand that we each have a unique and valuable view of the world. They take time to explore their responsibilities as global citizens and to practice the middot as part of daily life in the world. Thus, you’ll find Newman students out and about! On any given day, they might be visiting their “grand friends” at Sholom Home, collecting food donations for Neighborhood House, learning about animal habitats at Wood Lake Nature Center, or visiting neighbors in their Highland Park community.

The joy and wonder of learning are truly woven into the tapestry of a Newman education, just as they are in Judaism itself. It’s a place where community is beloved, children and families grow and learn together, and the future looks bright indeed.

The Newman School is the day school of Talmud Torah of St. Paul. They are currently enrolling ages 33 months through second grade. An additional grade level (up to fifth grade) will be added each year. For more information, call (651)698-8807, visit ttsp.org, or email [email protected].

This article is sponsored content provided by Talmud Torah of St. Paul in conjunction with a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul.