Born to Teach
A Profile of Rachel Weiss
There’s always that one teacher…
Amidst the ones who assigned too much homework, who droned on endlessly with information worthy of the dinosaur age, who roll called without recognizing your soul, there’s that one teacher… Either you had her or you heard about her—she’s the one who left her mark with inspiration. In this particular Northeastern right wing girls’ school, her name happens to be Rachel Weiss.
What makes Weiss teacher extraordinaire is not just a love of learning and imparting information-that’s only part of the recipe. Her secret ingredients also include a genuine interest in helping students achieve their greater potential- and watching their progress go from ‘not knowing’ to ‘knowing’ as they conquer the information and fill with personal pride. Weiss’s gaze shines through the lens of her rich kaleidoscopic English course beyond the material, to a wider focus on the overall growth of her individual students in their unique colors and full regalia. For a second year educator at age 23, that’s quite the reflection of emotional intelligence.
Sowing Dream Seeds
Like many elementary school girls, Rachel’s teaching aspirations may date back to elementary school, but it was the legacy of her 4th grade teacher that left a memorable imprint by telling the 9 year-old to “let me know when your first book gets published.” Still, while she loved the profession in its many facets, as time went on her concerns were of the practical kind- job availability in a flooded market, whether it would prove sufficiently lucrative.
With talents in writing and the arts and an interest in psychology, a career in education was not a sure choice. It was a full scholarship to Touro College that pushed her over the hurdles toward her passion, sealing her decision, direction and destination to pursue a teaching career, starting with a rigorous course schedule stoking keen teen minds with high school English.
From College Research to Career Ingenuity
The beauty of studying under Weiss's wing is that it's not Just Another English Class. Alongside the standard focus on literature and composition, she injects original elements into her curriculum essential to developing sophisticated comprehension via exercises in logic and analysis. I.e.: She doesn't just feed her audience minds bytes of what to think—she trains them how to think-- a skill often taken entirely too much for granted.
These exercises ensued as an outgrowth of her psychology major’s research projects with Dr. Sofer at Touro, focusing on the factors that influence students’ decision making in course selections. The successful research inspired her to independently create exercises that could get you membership at a mental gym and stretch those sleepy thinking muscles.
Flex That Cortex
Greater dexterity in thought processes can lead to heightened success professionally, mentally and emotionally—skills that most could use but few possess. With the administrative support of the school she teaches at, Weiss was encouraged to incorporate cognitive exercises into her repertoire, transforming her classes into an uncommon asset.
Her younger students get a workout in skills like paraphrasing, information analysis, extrapolating and drawing conclusions, as well as identifying assumptions, inferences and implications through literary exploration and character analysis. Older students get a more advanced dose with a focus on logic and argumentation. One of the main goals of these courses is to equip students with the life skills to process information and evaluate what they encounter more effectively- and hopefully make better decisions in their lives.
Love It and Live It
Talking to Weiss reveals an appreciation of the craft that oozes from every direction so obviously, you’ll be almost convinced to follow her tracks-- but that’s hardly the point. She’ll tell you what she tells her students: ‘You can be whoever you want to be. Don’t discount your own aspirations, no matter what others tell you. If you’ve got the passion and give it your best, it’s going to be worthwhile… Every bit of progress is enriching and empowering… it’s about the process, not just the destination.’ She abides by her word via living example.
As an educator, Weiss confides her goal is to make the classroom a positive environment: A place students are excited to be rather than have to be. By being a pleasant person toward her students, loving the information she delivers and a commitment to their learning process, she thinks the feelings will be contagious. And so far so good-- the principal is beyond thrilled: ‘Very rarely do you find a person who steps in to fill the vision that matches your own…’ It’s Weiss’s true interest in the development of human potential, coupled with her inquisitive mind, original approach and affable persona that puts her on the fast track to educational excellence.