Longtime and distinguished English Department Chair Ms. Sheri Goldstein will be honored by the ATT with its top award for the Hartman Family Educator of the Year Award on Monday, December 10. It’s one of many well-deserved awards Ms. Goldstein has received in her 30+ years of teaching English at ICJA.
When Ms. Sheri Goldstein devours the text of any one of her favorite books during an English class, it’s not clear to many of her students whether they’re learning more from the author or from the passion pouring forth from their beloved teacher. It’s likely the combination of both that is so inspiring.
At the time that ICJA honored Ms. Goldstein as Educator of the Year in 2010, alumnae Shira Wakschlag (’00) recalled, “Ms. Goldstein was always extremely energetic and passionate in the classroom. She is an incredibly vibrant teacher, and she infused all of her students with a love of literature, ideas and stimulating discussion. I was privileged to be her student and still think back on my class with her very fondly.”
Ms. Goldstein, who will be honored by the ATT on December 10 at the Bryn Mawr Country Club at 6:30, attributes her passion in teaching to her love of books. She encourages her students to look at the complexity of sentences, which reflect the complexity of the characters. “We examine the characters to see how can our lives be enriched.”
“Someone asked me how I can teach the same book 20 years in a row? When I’m teaching it to this class, it’s the first time they’re reading it. They give me sense of wonder, I’m still seeing the world with open eyes,” says Ms. Goldstein. “Whatever unit I’m doing is my favorite.”
More than just a love of literature and writing, Ms. Goldstein tries to instill passion in her students. “I want students to find those things they love and follow those passions. That’s essential to having a positive life experience,” she says. Each year Ms. Goldstein is able to provide her students with gifts of a lifetime precisely because she considers her work such a gift. “I love teaching and I love kids, especially high school kids,” she says.
Ms. Goldstein seems to love her students even more than books. Ask her to recall memories of students throughout her 30+ years teaching at ICJA, and she lists scores of students. She names students she taught decades ago (!) and has fond memories to go along with each one. If that wasn’t enough, Ms. Goldstein has a stack of letters from alumni, expressing their gratitude for all that they learned.
“On a rainy, cold day I’ll go and read them because they’re about making connections. Several teachers really changed my life in high school, but I never told them. But the thing about Academy students, is that they tell me.”
Just to cite a few, Ms. Goldstein rattles off a list of students who have gone on to teach, many of whom have told her that she influenced their decisions. One student, who now teaches English and seeks advice from Ms. Goldstein, wrote that she never looked at English in the same way. One boy who never liked to read “told me he started reading in my class.” Another former student presented Ms. Goldstein with a poem on last day of class, saying, “She will think of me every time she opens a book. How about that as a legacy?”
Leah Panitch Finkel recalls how Ms. Goldstein spent so many lunch meetings with her during her preparation for college. “She was always so interested and concerned about her students’ future. Even to this day she always remembers what’s going on in my life.”
Melissa Steiner says, “The best piece of advice I ever received from Ms. Sheri Goldstein was senior year, and it was just 4 words: ‘Ignorance is never bliss.’ I don’t remember the context, but I do remember she was fiery, passionate, yet also completely rational in her insistence. We were to never ignore the facts, never disregard history, never claim ‘we didn’t know’ about anything that we could legitimately discover – and you have to understand this was at the conception of the digital age. YouTube didn’t exist, the internet was in its infancy – and yet, she was undeniably prophetic in that moment.
She appreciated creativity in writing, in speaking, and in being. She never failed to make classes engaging and interesting. She expected each of us to achieve our best, without comparing us to each other. She got a bunch of teenagers to understand Shakespeare, and she also instilled in me a love of the written word.”
Ya’el (Gluck) Margolin says, “Ms. Goldstein taught me to think for myself, to express myself, and how to have a respectful argument.”
Ben Draiman says, “Every class she would write very thought provoking quotes on the board that often stayed with me. One that had the most impact was from EE Cummings, an author I will forever associate with Ms. Goldstein. It read: ‘To fight the hardest battle is to be yourself in a world that’s constantly trying to make you like everyone else.’ It influenced everything I did ever since, inspired more than one song that I composed over the years, and very much became the motto of my adolescence. She inspired many of us in so many ways by the little things she did. My writing, especially my creative writing, received the greatest boost by her and her constant encouragement. I pray one day my daughter will be lucky enough to have such a teacher.”
Alum David Goldshmidt (’14) recently wrote in a letter to Ms. Goldstein about an incident where her lessons in Kafka helped him impress an Israeli man enough to try on tefillin for the first time since his bar mitzvah. “Thank you, Ms. Goldstein, for the love-infused teachings which would resonate with me for years to come—and which would even come in handy in unexpected situations.”
Keren Bider says, “You taught me how to write, edit and speak publicly. You made literature come alive for us. Most importantly, you believed in me and made me feel like I could do anything! Your bright smile made everything even better! The few times that I have seen you since high school were in the library, which seemed so appropriate. I am a better person for having had you as a teacher, and you helped mold me into who I am today. Thank you!”
After years of teaching English in every grade level, public speaking (a course which she created) and journalism, Ms. Goldstein cannot choose a favorite. “Whichever class I’m teaching at the moment is my favorite. And I mean that. The day it becomes a chore, is the day I will retire.”
As Goldshmidt wrote in his letter, “May you continue to light up the world, one student at a time.”
Some of this article came from a post we used in 2010 when Ms. Goldstein was honored by ICJA. To share your stories from class with Ms. Goldstein, email firstname.lastname@example.org