By Dani Granowitz
Name: Elana Metsch-Ampel
Grades teaching: 9 and 10
Hometown: Montclair, NJ
Elana Metsch-Ampel grew up surrounded by literature. Her mother was a high school English teacher in Montclair, NJ, and helped foster her love for the language.
Yet she was not always set on teaching English. Elana completed a double major in Spanish and psychology at Wesleyan University and flirted with a career in law. After graduating, she worked at a law firm for two years to decide if she should apply to law school. “I did a lot of interpreting and Pro Bono immigration clients, and I knew right away that I did not want to be a lawyer.”
Her break with law would ultimately steer her toward English studies. “I remembered speaking to someone who asked if I was still considering teaching and they said my face lit up in a different way.” Fortunately, Elana had enough credits from Wesleyan to earn a teaching degree at The Teachers College at Columbia University.
This year, Elana will teach ninth and tenth grade English and will be a freshman advisor. “I am excited about getting to know the students and hear their opinions and feelings about the world and literature and how they move through it”. She is one of the first teachers to teach the new ninth and tenth grade curriculums, “Exile and Return” and “Self and Other.”
Elana is also eager to be immersed in a Jewish environment. In addition to seeing how students apply Judaic studies to secular subjects, Elana is looking forward to reconnecting with her own Jewish faith. “I grew up going to Hebrew school and my parents reacquainted themselves with Judaism when they had children, but I’ve been away from the community for a long time.” She is specifically looking forward to seeing how tefillah works in a non-denominational setting.
Elana is drawn to Heschel’s pluralism and says it is reminiscent of her upbringing. “I was raised Reform and I was always taught that one of the tenets of Reform Judaism is that you question everything and engage in a lively discourse with your faith and with the world around you to make it a better place. So, I felt like being in a pluralistic environment where there is an emphasis on social justice, questioning, individuality, and differences in faith would lead to a really exciting experience as a teacher.”