Third grade was a hard time for Milwaukee Jewish Day School teacher Linsey Kimmel. Her teacher made her feel inadequate. The teacher was not good at differentiating and made Linsey feel incapable. In fifth grade, she had a teacher who empowered her by calling her a “shining star.” She decided to become a teacher so that her students would learn in an environment like she had in 5th grade. Kimmel said, “I think I’ve stayed a teacher because it has allowed me to learn with my students every day. They teach me as much as I teach them. It is a creative outlet. I get to be innovative; I like to spread creativity to the kids. As they approach learning, they think outside the box.”
Sure enough, when Kimmel started teaching at MJDS 15 years ago, she started as a 3rd grade teacher. Today she teaches 5th grade ELA (English and language arts). She described this as beshert (Yiddish for meant to be). Linsey does more than teach English. She is team lead for 5th grade and is a learning partner (often called an instructional coach). She partners with teachers to support their development: helping them with lesson planning, aligning their teaching to standards, creating new units, problem-solving and reinventing learning to make it more engaging. She also leads a lot of professional learning for the school.
Kimmel spoke a lot about partnering and relationships. She shared that “part of why I love being at MJDS is the relationships I have built with students, their families and the whole staff. There are families I keep in touch with of students I taught 12 years ago. I get to come to school every day and be fun and silly with the kids. Every day I create a Bitmoji to match what I’m wearing. I love creating, reinventing, problem-solving, and taking the kids through that process as well.”
When asked about a great day she had as a teacher she said, “I love bringing fun to teaching. Any opportunity there is to wear a costume or do something out of the box. A great day of teaching is any day that I get my students to ask questions, get excited about the learning in the classroom, they are engaged, they ask me questions and when I don’t have the answers and they get me thinking.”
For Kimmel, being a part of the MJDS community has shaped her Judaism and brought a love of learning to her and her children. Together with her husband Adam (an MJDS alumni), her daughter Samantha (in first grade at MJDS) and her son Andrew (3K at MJDS), she lights Shabbat candles every Friday night. She loves learning about values and traditions that she didn’t have growing up. She said, “It’s been intriguing to learn about specific Jewish values and connecting them and learning by sitting in on Jewish Studies classes and being able to practice that in my own life.”
When asked about the challenges of teaching, Kimmel said, “Being able to separate work and home life. Because of the strong connections, it is hard to turn it off. You go home thinking about the rough moments or celebrating the good ones. That can take a toll.”
Kimmel loves photography and turned it into a side business (Linsey Kimmel Photography). She loves to capture fun moments for families. She also enjoys board games, cooking and baking. Kimmel’s favorite Jewish food is matza ball soup because growing up her grandparents owned a restaurant in Milwaukee called Bobby’s Place. She ate it every Friday night at their restaurant. Now she loves to make it because the smell is her childhood, she said.
As for future plans, Kimmel wants to continue bringing a love of learning and Judaism to “her kids” at MJDS as well as her own children. She said she wants to continue her own growth and learning with the goal of keeping the education at MJDS relevant, engaging and empowering.
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The Coalition for Jewish Learning, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, is celebrating local educators with this regular feature. To suggest someone for coverage, contact Jewish Education Community Planner Tziporah Altman-Shafer, at TziporahA@MilwaukeeJewish.org.