Each year, outstanding Kansas City Jewish educators are nominated for the honor of being the Grinspoon Educator of the Year. This award recognizes excellence in teaching Hebrew and Jewish studies.
This winner for 2019 is Morgan Fasbinder, a teacher at Congregation Beth Torah’s Weiner Religious School. Fasbinder was presented with the award at Jewish Federation’s 2020 Annual Meeting on Jan. 8. The award comes with $2,000 to give educators additional access to professional development so they can continue to enhance their work in the field.
“Jewish education is an integral part of making sure future generations understand the importance and value of their heritage,” said Andi Milens, Federation’s senior director of community engagement. “Educators like Morgan, who go above and beyond in the classroom, deserve to be recognized for their contribution to our Jewish community and Federation is proud to do that.”
Fasbinder has a lifelong love of teaching. In middle school, she helped teach elementary students. In high school, she helped teach special education students, was a counselor at Barney Goodman Camp, and was a madricha (teaching assistant) at Congregation Beth Torah. During that time, she also started and managed a congregational cookie delivery to first responders on Christmas Day, for which she received several awards.
Fasbinder has taught at Congregation Beth Torah’s Weiner Religious School for the past four years. In May, she will receive her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and hopes to teach fourth grade in the 2020-21 academic year.
Her goals in teaching religious school are to make Judaism meaningful to her students, give them an appreciation of their religion and culture, and build up the Jewish community. She integrates a variety of learning tools into her teaching to achieve these goals, including art, library time, music, classroom education, technology tools and Hebrew lessons.
Fasbinder also places a priority on understanding the different learning styles of each class so she can tailor the lessons and make learning fun for the students.
“Research shows that, when students are happy and have a positive attitude, they retain more information,” Fasbinder said. “At the beginning of each year, I build a relationship with my students and base lessons on what I learn about that class. Some classes prefer hands-on learning, some like writing versus reading, some learn best through physical activity. I work to meet the needs of each group to make learning fun for them. This helps meet the needs of all learners and creates students who are curious for knowledge, ask questions, are engaged, having fun and retaining information.”
Rabbi Monica Kleinman, Beth Torah’s director of lifelong learning, said Fasbinder is a master at bringing the latest teaching practices and methodologies to the religious school classroom.
“Her experience in the public and parochial school systems, combined with her love for Congregation Beth Torah and the Jewish people, have enabled her to come up with creative and popular classroom experiences,” she said.
In nominating Fasbinder, Rabbi Kleinman wrote, “She continuously goes above and beyond for the young people in our community. She is a staple on Sunday mornings and has truly made newer families feel welcome and loved. She is an incredible asset to our school and our community!”