Special Needs Education Mission: Preparation for Life
Surpassing all high schools in Jerusalem, Boys Town Jerusalem was tapped by the Ministry of Education to open its third Special Education class at the start of the 2016-7 school year. The new seventh grade class joins Special Education classes already operating in the eighth and eleventh grades. “The Education Ministry’s vote of confidence in Boys Town Jerusalem is a tribute to the tremendous efforts we invest in our ‘special’ students,” said Dean of Students Rabbi Meir Linchner. “Slowly, painstakingly, these boys learn and develop their skills. To our program’s credit, nearly 100% of BTJ’s Special Education graduates pass the national matriculation exams, serve in the IDF, and join the workforce.”
The learning difficulties that plague the Special Education students can be traced directly to the hyperactivity, acute attention deficiencies, comprehension problems, and behavioral issues from which the boys suffer. Yet their suffering begins at home, with the majority of the boys hailing from broken homes and/or families facing poverty, illness or other traumas.
Rabbi Udi Chamo, who teaches the newest class of seventh graders, was chosen to instruct the school’s very first Special Education class in 2002 and others which followed. “True, I’m the most experienced Special Ed teacher here, but the longer I teach, the more patience this job requires. The overall mission is to prepare these students for life,” Rabbi Chamo stresses.
“In my 30 years of teaching, this is my first Special Education class,” notes his colleague Rabbi Emanuel Eliyahu, who is teaching the eleventh grade class. “But my fundamental mandate to help each student achieve his maximum potential is particularly valid here and now.” His top priority, the rabbi notes, is to overcome the “special” student’s painfully low motivation level and self-image, exacerbated by his short attention span, faulty recall, and difficulties in writing and speaking. “I look for a common language of communication – even football terms – to break through learning barriers.”
Both teachers are passionate about their objective to grant students the tools to believe in themselves. Besides the three qualified teachers, the Boys Town Jerusalem’s Special Education team includes a psychologist, music therapist, tutors, “shadows,” and guidance counselors. Teachers also meet regularly with the parents throughout the year.
Coincidentally, Special Ed instructors Udi Chamo and Emanuel Eliyahu are both graduates of Boys Town Jerusalem who returned to their alma mater as teachers following their IDF service (Rabbi Eliyahu also served in Israel’s General Security Service in Europe) and university education. “We’re passing along the skills for life that we gained at Boys Town Jerusalem to these students in special need,” explains Rabbi Eliyahu.