In the Green Mountain State, one elementary school has enjoyed 100 percent in-person learning since September. But that’s not the only unique part — the school is the first of its kind in Vermont.
“It was definitely an interesting year with Covid. We had been planning this school for a couple of years, and we would have never imagined in our wildest dreams that we would be in this situation with the pandemic,” said Tamim Academy’s Executive Director Draizy Junik.
Junik’s school is part of nationwide movement to increase and provide Jewish education for young students. So far, four other Tamim Academies exist around the country. And despite the challenges of Covid-19, school director and fourth-generation Burlington native Draizy Junik found a way to continue her family’s legacy.
“We do have roots in Vermont. About 100 years ago, my great-grandparents lived here. My great-grandfather was a rabbi in Barre, Vermont, and my grandfather used to come up to Burlington to get his Jewish education here,” said Junik.
Then, in the early ’80’s, Junik’s parents started the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Burlington, and shortly thereafter, Junik and her husband opened Tamim Academy.
“Tamim academy is huge for the state of Vermont because it is the first Jewish elementary school in the state of Vermont,” said Junik.
Currently, twelve children in kindergarten through first grade attend Tamim Academy. But every year, Junik hopes add a new classroom, until the school eventually houses grades K-8.
“We have celebrations, we study Jewish holidays, they’re learning to read Hebrew… there’s a lot of things that you wouldn’t find in your average, normal public school,” said Tamim Academy’s Lead Teacher Sam Coleman.
Coleman formerly taught at Chamberlin Elementary School in South Burlington as a behavioral facilitator. He says he finds the unique and individualized school environment beneficial for his students’ development.
“We really emphasize a lot of autonomy in their learning and their choice of what activities they’re doing that are connected to their learning,” said Junik.
Andrea Hulsey, Director of Gan Yeladim, Vermont’s Jewish preschool of 35 years says it’s now possible for her students to continue their Jewish education in the state after they turn five.
She said in a statement:
“It is a wonderful experience to see children that have been at Gan Yeladim Preschool for their first five years of life move on to the first Jewish day school in Vermont.”
Next school year, Tamim Academy is adding a second grade classroom. Junik says interested families can enroll now through the end February.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to be involved in and having grown up in Burlington….just to be able to be here and be a part of the first Jewish school here is really exciting,” said Junik.