“I’m a big advocate for anyone who needs one.”
Matty Powell is a gift to the children in our Jewish community, looking out for their educational and social-emotional needs. In her fourth year on the staff of Congregation Shalom, Matty teaches 5th-grade Hebrew and the Hebrew Through Movement Specialty. Matty found her way to synagogue education through her OSRUI colleague, Rabbi Rachel Marks, former director of lifelong learning. As a student at University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee studying Community Engagement and Education, it’s an opportunity that continually allows Matty the chance to apply her classroom learning to her own classroom.
Matty grew up in the suburbs of Chicago as an only child in an interfaith household. Matty feels very lucky to have grown up in an interfaith family. She gleaned from her own personal experience that the best way to raise a child is to explore as many cultures as you can. “The sooner you can expose your child to cultural differences the better off you are.”
Matty found the inspiration to teach from all the teachers she has had along the way, including some exceptionally special Hebrew teachers. Anyone who helped Matty love learning has been a great role model for her. She comes to teaching naturally, as many close family members were teachers: Her grandmother was a teacher and principal, her aunt was a middle school band director.
Matty loves making connections with her students. She appreciates watching kids grow as students, even sometimes making mistakes; if they make mistakes then they are trying. Matty tells students she doesn’t care if they are perfect, as long as they are trying.
As a Hebrew teacher, she is challenged by the reality that Hebrew is a gendered language. Matty has students in her classroom who identify as non-binary and they talk together about “how Hebrew kind of sucks.” She sees this as a meaningful opportunity to open the door for great conversation. Matty creates a safe space for dialogue to empower students to find their voice to express their needs and arrive at a comfortable solution together.
When she is not in the classroom at Congregation Shalom and UWM, Matty works as a guest services associate at Discovery World and volunteers at the Riverwest Co-op. She likes to hang out with her friends and her cat, Benny, and play the guitar. You can find Matty at her favorite place in Milwaukee — Lake Michigan. Whether it’s a walk around or a swim, lakes are her happy place.
* * *
The Coalition for Jewish Learning 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.