English is a global language. It is one of the most common languages used in the world today, and the most widely used language of Internet communication. It is also the most widely taught foreign language in schools throughout the world.
In Israel, although English is not an official language, it is considered by many as a ‘second’ language. It is a compulsory subject for the high school matriculation certificate, a prerequisite for entrance into, and exit from, higher education, as well as the language of international commerce, tourism, academic advancement, and social interaction.
Shortage of qualified teachers
Despite the status of English as a preferred subject and its world-wide use, there is still a shortage of qualified English teachers in the Israeli school system. According to the English Inspectorate’s Desk, “Professional English teachers are in high demand in Israel.”
To meet this need, the Ministry of Education has, in the past few years, launched several initiatives to increase the number of English teachers in the field. These initiatives include tailored teacher training programs targeted to specific populations, such as individuals with degrees who are interested in making career changes. Initiatives such as these tap into a valuable source of manpower: professionals who have work and life experience and are ready to commit themselves to a new career.
The benefits of programs like these are multifaceted. These initiatives bring new blood into the field and provide positive role models for pupils. In most cases, those who choose to retrain as English teachers have idealistic motives. They would like to do something socially meaningful that contributes to the face of education in Israel in the 21st century.
Learning useful skills
The programs for training English teachers offered at Beit Berl College proved successful and many graduates are currently teaching in the system. Some of them have even become mentor teachers for current students. The program at Beit Berl not only adherers to the general guidelines set by the Council for Higher Education, it also emphasizes equipping new teachers with essential skills for excellence in the 21st century.
In March 2020, as the country went into lockdown, forcing schools to move to distance learning, graduates of the Beit Berl program who are currently teachers were well-prepared for the daunting task of teaching English through distance learning.
In looking back on her studies, Hannah Simpson-Grossman, presently an English coordinator at the Beit Ekstein school in Kfar Malal, reflected: “The courses and lecturers at Beit Berl provided me with a broad, comprehensive basis of subject matter knowledge as well as the skills for converting such theoretical knowledge to practical day-to-day teaching. Specifically, with respect to distant teaching, we were exposed to various lesson structures and teaching tools and were given opportunities to try them out in real life situations.”
Erica Newman Dvory and Mira Leventhal Abudi, two graduates who teach English together in an elementary school in the Sharon area added: “Beit Berl taught us to be flexible and open-minded in our teaching, and to take what we have learned and implement it in new situations. Our studies at the College pushed us to take chances and gave us the confidence to try out new technological tools, which turned out to be crucial for teaching during a pandemic.”
Dr. Susie Russak is the head of the English Department in the Faculty of Education at Beit Berl College. For more information about the programs available for teacher certification in English at Beit Berl College: www.beitberl.ac.il/english