Congregation Etz Chaim has prided itself on being on the forefront of inclusion. The Union for Reform Judaism has charged congregations to become more inclusive to those who have special needs - especially where the religious school is concerned. Although we have always sought to provide a Jewish education for those who have desired to have one, we have stepped up our efforts to live up to this value. In the Chicagoland area, there is only one other congregation that has a designated Inclusion Specialist in their religious school. Lynda Gutcheon, in coordination with the religious school committee has endeavored to bring this high level of inclusion to our congregation.
To this end, we are pleased to announce the promotion of our beloved teacher and B'nai Mitzvah tutor, Rachel Wood, to Inclusion Specialist of the religious school. Rachel Wood will begin her duties in this newly designed position on July 1st.
Rachel Wood has been a member of Congregation Etz Chaim for 37 years. She began teaching in our religious school shortly after becoming a member. Initially she taught a Judaica class, but changed to Hebrew about 33 years ago. Rachel initially taught 3rd grade Hebrew and then developed a language lab class for different learners. She has taught 6th grade Hebrew for the past 28 years. She also began working with our Bar/Bar Mitzvah students over 28 years ago.
Rachel has also taught religious school classes wherever she has lived including Kalamazoo, Michigan, Bloomington, Indiana, Milwaukee,
Wisconsin and Aurora, Illinois.
By profession, Rachel is a licensed Speech/Language Pathologist with an emphasis in child development and learning styles in children. Her professional career has been spent working with the pediatric population in a variety of settings including public schools, private practices and early intervention programs.
Rachel's duties this coming year will be as a support to our staff. She will support teachers and teaching assistants who have children in their classes with diagnosed learning disabilities as well as offer suggestions and materials for children who need to approach learning in a non-traditional manner. Learning opportunities will be available for
children within the context of their class as well as on a pull-out basis. The ultimate goal is to provide an environment where all children will have the opportunity to be successful in our religious school.
We are so pleased to have Rachel Wood undertake this holy and important endeavor as we go forward into the future strengthening and including as many families as possible into the fabric of our congregation