11 Aug 2016

Cathy Lowenstein

A passionate educator, Cathy Lowenstein has spent the last 30+ years devoted to children and families. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mrs. Lowenstein spent her early years in public education serving a diverse range of students. A move to Toronto in 1999 signalled a shift in her career trajectory. Though both her daughters and husband benefitted from a Jewish day school education, Mrs. Lowenstein’s first foray into this field came when she was hired to teach first grade at Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto. Her philosophy, values and Zionist beliefs fit seamlessly in this setting, and so began a new mission to immerse herself in the world of Jewish day school education.

Returning to Vancouver in 2002, Mrs. Lowenstein continued to contribute to the Jewish day school world. Within a few years, she became Principal of Vancouver Talmud Torah and, with a team of professionals and lay leaders at her side, fastidiously worked to align the school’s educational offerings with 21st century learning goals.

Now as Head of School, Mrs. Lowenstein is responsible for maintaining and enhancing academic excellence, including innovations to programming and curricula; maintaining and enhancing operational excellence, with a particular emphasis on revenue stability and fiscal prudence and sustainability; executing policies set by the Board; and implementing the mission and mandate of the school. Specifically, Mrs. Lowenstein is responsible for educational management; instructional leadership; Ministry of Education requirements; board, community and stakeholder relations; human resources; financial management; development and fundraising; and public relations.

Mrs. Lowenstein is supported in her role by an Assistant Head of School, Primary Principal, School Rabbi, Preschool Director, Development Manager, Admissions & Communications Director, Controller and IT Manager.

Mrs. Lowenstein holds an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Administration. She is a graduate of the Harvard Principals’ Institute and the Lookstein Principals’ Institute in Jerusalem. She has also participated in RAVSAK’s Project SULAM to support day school leaders to lead with a deeper Jewish lens. Mrs. Lowenstein has experience serving as both a provincial and offshore school inspector for the BC Ministry of Education.

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10 Aug 2016

Jessica Neville

As Assistant Head of School, Ms. Neville supports faculty, families and students in all aspects of school life. She is involved in hiring new teachers, support staff and aides; accessing resources in the community; applying for Ministry of Education grants and funding; leading various committees; and liaising with different stakeholder groups to maximize learning opportunities for all students. Ms. Neville also works closely with the Head of School in the management of all human resource matters.

Ms. Neville is further responsible for ensuring VTT achieves educational excellence in the intermediate grades (Grade 4 to 7) while mentoring and supervising faculty in this department. With the additional portfolio of Student Services, Ms. Neville is responsible for the management of the Special Education department and oversees individualized student programs, counselling services, as well as student and systems management at VTT.

Raised in Winnipeg’s vibrant Jewish community, Ms. Neville began her career in the public school system as an educational consultant. She has earned a B.A., a post-baccalaureate in education as well as a Master’s in Education. A graduate of Harvard University’s Principals’ Institute, Ms. Neville has also completed doctoral coursework in education at UBC. Her areas of focus included assessment, special education and counselling.

A devoted mother of two, Ms. Neville’s children attend Talmud Torah.

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9 Aug 2016

Leigh Ariel

Mrs. Ariel is part of the educational leadership team. As Principal of Primary Grades (Kindergarten to Grade 3), she is responsible for ensuring VTT achieves educational excellence for all students. Mrs. Ariel also plays an integral role in mentoring, supporting, supervising and evaluating the primary faculty.

Prior to joining VTT, Mrs. Ariel spent 14 years as a public school teacher with the Richmond School District. She has taught Kindergarten to Grade 4 and has focused her professional development in literacy, numeracy and special needs. Mrs. Ariel holds a Bachelor of Arts from SFU and a B.Ed. and M.Ed in Curriculum & Instruction from UBC. She is the mother of three boys, one of whom is an alum, and two still enrolled at VTT.

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8 Aug 2016

Rabbi Marc Kasten

Rabbi Marc F. Kasten joined the VTT family in 2016. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Rabbi Kasten previously earned an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from Xavier University and a B.S. in Mathematics Education from North Carolina State University. He started his educational career as a middle school mathematics teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Prior to joining the VTT leadership team, Rabbi Kasten served Temple Beth Am Day School in Miami, Florida, as the Hebrew and Judaic Studies Director, and led a Judaic studies curriculum renewal at Rockwern Academy, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Previously, he was an extern at the Shlenker School in Houston, Texas, a Hillel Student Rabbi, a Youth Director, and a Hebrew and Judaics teacher. Rabbi Kasten looks forward to helping youth on their journey from early childhood through Grade 7 and onward to a life full of learning, community, and Torah. His wife, Rachel, is a fellow Jewish educator, and they are proud to send their son Emory to VTT.

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7 Oct 2012

Lyora Nifco

As head of the Early Years program, Lyora Nifco oversees the development, implementation and management of the early years curriculum as well as supervising, mentoring and evaluating the department’s faculty. Lyora is responsible for ensuring the program meets the licensing requirements as set out by Vancouver Coastal Health and works with other members of the academic leadership team to ensure that health, safety and operations procedures are tailored for the specific needs of VTT’s youngest learners. She also works with parents to create and implement individual development plans.

Coming to Talmud Torah was like coming home for Lyora Nifco. As a Jewish day school graduate (P3 to Grade 12) from Mexico City, Lyora speaks Spanish (her native tongue), Hebrew and Yiddish. Lyora is a licensed Montessori educator and spent three years teaching at a Jewish Montessori School.

In 1991, Lyora immigrated to Canada to start a life with her husband. Though extremely challenging and uncertain at the time, today Lyora has no regrets about their decision to start a new life in Canada to give their Canadian-born children a better quality of life.

Since their arrival in Canada, Lyora has worked as a Montessori teacher, language tutor, school aide, business developer and, since 2009, a play-based preschool educator at VTT, a job she loves and one to which she owes much gratitude to Loris Cohen, a 35+ year preschool veteran who mentored her.

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3 Sep 2012

Jennifer Shecter-Balin

Affectionately known as “Jenn” by most, Ms. Shecter-Balin is responsible for developing and executing the school’s communications strategies, including stakeholder engagement and support to the community. She is the primary liaison for the Parent Action Chavurah (PAC) co-chairs and manages all of VTT’s communications media and vehicles, including the weekly Hadashot e-newsletter. She also helps to develop a number of educational and programming initiatives. As the Director of Admissions, Jenn meets with prospective new families to acquaint them with the benefits of a VTT education, and works with members of the academic leadership team to ensure that individualized programs meet the needs of our diverse community of learners.

A product of Jewish day school education in Montreal (primary and secondary), Jenn continued her Jewish learning at Hebrew University of Jerusalem immediately after graduating from high school. She has lived, worked and studied in Toronto, Japan, France, Chicago, Boston and Nepal. A graduate of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Ms. Shecter-Balin also holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Western Ontario. All three of Jenn’s children either attend or have graduated from VTT.

Jenn estimates she has shot more than 500,000 photos of students and school events since joining VTT in 2004. She is dedicated to capturing every precious moment of a VTT education.

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31 Aug 2008

Ellen Wiesenthal

There has never been a time in Ellen’s life, she claims, when she hasn’t been involved, heart and soul, in Jewish education. Thus joining VTT’s leadership team is a natural progression in her career development.

A graduate of the Jewish school system in Winnipeg, Ellen brings to the team over 30 years of both formal and informal experience in cultivating and advocating on behalf of Jewish education, Israel, and continuity.

She has lived extensively in Israel: serving in the army, studying at University of Tel Aviv, and passionately supporting Israeli music, dance, and art.

Ellen oversees the running of the Hebrew and Judaic program in the primary grades and is responsible for diverse school-wide programming with the goal of creating enriching and experiential learning opportunities for the school community.

Ellen holds a B.A., B.Ed., and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration, but believes that her best training has been alongside a vibrant and dynamic team of dedicated teachers.

Morah Ellen has three daughters: one a graduate of VTT, and two who await another year at VTT with uncontained excitement.

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