PHOTO: Maayan Torah General Studies Principal Aviel Brodkin teaches a first grade lesson in February 2020. She plans to go on temporary leave to continue her own education at the end of this school year.
BY DEBORAH MOON
At the end of June 2021, Maayan Torah Day School General Studies Principal Aviel Brodkin will begin a leave of absence – from the school she helped launch a decade ago – to grow professionally so she can be a more impactful leader in the school’s future.
Maayan Torah (Maayanpdx.org) launched in 2011 with one preschool class of 11 students. For its first seven years, the day school leased space from Congregation Neveh Shalom. When the Jewish day school moved to Lake Oswego in the fall of 2018, it had grown to 95 children in preschool through eighth grade. Since then, the school has stabilized at about 100 students, with graduating students opening spaces for incoming students each year.
“I have grown professionally with the school,” says Aviel. “As the school grew, I learned to keep pace.”
Now she plans to complete a graduate degree she began a couple years ago.
“I am excited for the school’s next stage,” she says. “I need to prepare … to arm myself for the next stage.”
She also plans to recuperate from the physical and professional challenges she has faced over the past year and half. In addition to running a school during a pandemic, she also faced a personal health challenge.
“I am in a strong spot now,” she says. “Maybe sharing (my story) will bring some light to others that healing is possible.”
In August of 2019, she was suffering from rapidly deteriorating eyesight. An MRI revealed a noncancerous tumor in her brain pressing on the optic nerve. A week later, she underwent an eight-hour surgery to remove the meningioma.
“Being a principal, you don’t get a chance to stop, because children are depending on you,” she says. “I woke up the next morning and hired a fourth-grade teacher. I met with new teachers over the next week to go over the curriculum. I took minimal leave – six weeks. The first place I drove was to school; I pushed myself a lot.”
She worked hard to be strong mentally, and by March 2020 she was looking forward to Passover.
“Then COVID came as soon as I started to feel strong again,” she says. “I am a person of faith; G-d gave me the energy.”
She rose to the occasion and worked out remote learning schedules, helped teachers connect virtually with students one-on-one and in groups, and planned a drive-through graduation ceremony.
“I didn’t do it alone; we ended the school year like a team of heroes,” she says.
This school year began with students on an online learning platform. But Maayan obtained an emergency child-care license, and most students returned to the campus. With stringent safety procedures in place, the school has not had a single case of COVID.
“It’s been a phenomenal year,” says Aviel. “At the same time, I said to myself, I need to pause.”
She feels the school is in a strong place, and she can now step away comfortably.
“I want to thank the board of directors and staff for working together with me to create this school,” she wrote in a letter to the school community. “It was a dream come true to see this vision develop. I am blessed to see it take its next steps. The teachers, the administration and the board are well-positioned to take Maayan to new heights.”
She looks forward to working with the school board and Judaics Principal Rabbi Yerachmiel Kalter to conduct a candidate search to find an outstanding educational leader to oversee Maayan’s general studies department.