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New Hebrew teacher keeps language living at Stevenson High School

New Hebrew teacher keeps language living at Stevenson High School

By Ronnie Wachter, Contact Reporter for The Chicago Tribune

Enrollment numbers for the new year are set at Stevenson High School, and director of world languages Justin Fisk is looking at an increasing number of students showing interest in the Hebrew language.

"I'm certainly very excited about it," Fisk said. "It's a victory in many ways."

Stevenson High taught Hebrew — one of the world's oldest living languages — for nearly 20 years, until the last instructor retired in spring 2015. Low enrollment made the section a part-time job, and school officials have said that finding a state-certified Hebrew teacher willing to work odd hours has been tough.

For the 2015-16 year, which ended this past spring, Stevenson funded online classes from Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Mass., for the approximately 30 students at the Lincolnshire school who were interested in learning the language.

But after a months-long search for a new staff member to replace the retired instructor, Stevenson officials found Anna Gorbikoff, who previously has taught Hebrew at Stevenson and Deerfield High School. She also serves on the advisory board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. When classes began on Aug. 15, Gorbikoff had 27 students in her sections.

That number has since climbed to 33, she said.

"I've tried many other things and, somehow, I found myself back in the classroom," Gorbikoff said. "It's like I never left. The excitement of students is just incredible."

She said there had been two developments in her life that prompted her return to school.

The first was what she learned from Barry Chazan, the founding director of the Spertus Institute's Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies Program. The second was the realization of seeing what her past students had learned from her.

Gorbikoff said she has bumped into past students in recent years, conversed with them in both Hebrew and English. She then decided she wanted to influence more teens.

Fisk said he was pleased to see Gorbikoff return.

"She is probably one of the best teachers out there in Hebrew," he said.

While Stevenson searched for a new teacher last fall, other Chicago area schools reported small increases, small decreases and even cancellations of their Hebrew programs.

Fisk said continuing it was a priority for Stevenson.

"Hebrew is a language that can be a gateway into other languages," he said, noting its close connection to Arabic. "It's a living language in parts of the city, and some of the suburbs as well."

Monday, August 22, 2016

Anna GorbikoffAnna Gorbikoff