Read Josh's remarks from the 2017 Limud Celebration.
I am truly honored to be selected to represent Rashi’s faculty as the recipient of this year’s Limud award. The people that I work with every day are not only great teachers, they are great people who inspire me to be the best teacher and person I can be and I am truly humbled to represent such an amazing group.
Every now and then, I’m asked why sports are part of our educational process. Usually, these questions come from students who don’t particularly want to participate in fitness class so while I think I have a good answer, it doesn’t take long to realize their question was actually rhetorical. So, I thought I’d take this chance to try to explain why sports are so important to what I hope will be a more receptive audience.
Participation in sports provides unique opportunities for our students to take risks, make mistakes and learn the resilience to persevere. Students get to face multiple challenges that test their perceived limitations. They learn to navigate through the issues of working together with teammates toward common goals. They get to see first-hand how effort and focus can lead to success. Sports provide a unique way for students to be tested. In competition, the results aren’t kept private and only one team can pass the test. The process that takes them through these tests, from their preparation to compete to their analysis of the results is where the true value of athletics lives. The lessons that are learned through this process are transferable into life situations and work toward our goals of educating the whole child. Who our students become, that inner fabric that grows into their morals, values, and perspective can be significantly shaped by the process of participating on a team.
But here’s the thing. Students don’t join a team to gain transferable life experience. They don’t decide one day that they need more opportunities to explore self-sacrifice for the good of the group and decide to join the Rashi soccer team. Students play sports because they’re fun. They enjoy being on teams with classmates, wearing the uniform, riding the bus, and simply playing a game. I try to remember to promote fun in everything we do. That’s why I played. The life lessons sports provide may not be our students' motivation or focus but they are inevitable. It becomes our responsibility as educators to promote the values of sport and help our students navigate through their experiences. I have truly enjoyed the role I get to play in this process.
I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish in the twelve years since I became the athletic director and while I am up here accepting this recognition, I think it’s important to emphasize the WE in what WE’VE accomplished. It has been a true privilege to work with so many great people over the years and while I don’t have the time to thank every single one, I’d like to recognize some of the people that have played a role in getting this department off its feet and helped propel us forward.
First and foremost, I have to acknowledge the founding fathers of Rashi athletics. A few years before I arrived on the scene, a group of fathers organized and coached several Rashi basketball teams and were real catalysts for the creation of the athletic department. When I came on board, Murray Sackman, Bob Haber, Frank Litwin, Hal Garnick, and Andy Pomper formed an advisory board that helped me navigate the new and sometimes choppy waters of a new school and provided years of unending support in our shared ambition to create and build successful and enduring athletic programs. I thank them for their support, their guidance, their trust, and their friendship.
It ‘s great to see Nathaniel Cutter here tonight. Nathaniel was such an awesome partner and supportive friend when we started all this 12 years ago. We spent a lot of time together, mostly I think on school buses, and I learned so much about teaching by witnessing his calm, measured, and patient approach to all situations.
Venus Corriveau was one of the first teachers I met at Rashi but I heard about Venus long before I met her. As I prepared for my first year, people kept describing this force of nature with a strange name that I had to get to coach some of the new teams. Venus has filled so many roles within the athletic department over the years and has had such a unique and positive effect on so many of our students.
Jen Shaw is among the nicest and most genuine people I have met and we are all so lucky to have her boundless energy and youthful exuberance around every day. She is also among the best dancers I’ve ever seen so get ready for that.
We’ve had so many great coaches throughout the years. While I don’t have time to recognize them all, there is one coach in particular that stands out among the rest. Six years ago, we were lucky to have a former AAU star take over the reins of our 5th-grade girls’ basketball team. At the beginning of her very first practice, she presented her team with matching blue scrunchies and had a long discussion about what numbers they all wanted on their basketball costumes. I am talking of course about my beautiful and talented wife, Sarah who has brought the same level of enthusiasm and care she showed in her one year of coaching into our marriage and as a wonderful mother to our precious little Lily. I only hope that our marriage and parenting are met with a little more success than her team enjoyed.
I’d like to end my remarks by sharing a conversation I had with my father almost 23 years ago, right after I resigned from my first teaching job. At the time, my dad was well into his 30+ year career as a teacher in the Baltimore Public Schools and I knew he was proud that his youngest son had followed in his footsteps so I was worried he would be disappointed in my decision. We talked for a long time that night and towards the end of the conversation, he said “Josh, teaching isn’t something you can do without passion. You have to love what you do. And who knows if you’ll ever try teaching again but you’ll know it’s the right job for you when the place you work feels like a home and the people you work with become your family. And Josh, I don’t want you to forget, one of the best parts of being a teacher is…….. you get your summers off.”
So, here I stand some 23 years later, confident that I have found a school that I love and a job that I can bring passion to every day. Rashi has become my home and, I say this not just because I’m married to a former Rashi teacher or my mother-in-law works here or my sister-in-law used to work here, but all of you, fellow teachers, current students, alumni and parents, you are all part of my large and crazy extended family. And, if I’ve done the calculations right, there are only 117 1/2 more school days until summer break. Thank you.