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, 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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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 from Senior Kindergarten to Grade 7 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 twins who await another year at VTT with uncontained excitement.

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15 Aug 2007

Adam Gelmon

Adam Gelmon rejoined VTT’s leadership in August 2017 as the Director of Learning and Innovation after a hiatus on the east coast.

Adam has dedicated himself to the field of education, rooted in his belief that learning is the path to freedom, self-actualization and societal improvement.  A collaborative educational leader, Adam believes that each member of a school community has a unique and valuable perspective and an important place in actively contributing to our school culture and climate.

Adam began his teaching career at Vancouver Talmud Torah as a teacher and then a member of the school leadership team.  Seven years ago, he moved out east with his family where he served as vice-principal and principal with the Bluewater District School Board in Southwestern Ontario.  His work was focused on improving student achievement, building school communities through active partnerships with parents and families and supporting a multitude of talented educational professionals.

Adam is a proud graduate of Vancouver Talmud Torah, having joined the school as a grade five student after living with his family in Israel for three years.  He currently lives in Vancouver with his wife Jessica and his son Arik who attends preschool at VTT, making him the third generation in his family attending our school.


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23 Aug 2005

Shoshana “Shoshi” Burton

Shoshana (“Shoshi”) Burton has been teaching in Vancouver’s Jewish day school community since 1992 having instructed Hebrew and Judaic studies at VTT, RJDS and King David High School. Shoshi wears many hats, and this year is no exception. In addition to Hebrew language teaching responsibilities in Grades 6 & 7, Shoshi is also responsible for our chesed clubs and Jewish life programming in the upper grades.

Born in Israel and educated at Haifa University (where she met her future Canadian husband), Shoshi is not only passionate about teaching Hebrew language, but also about collaborating with students to implement bold educational projects tied to the Jewish values of chesed (kindness), tzedekah (charity) and gemilut chasadim (benevolence). She draws inspiration in her quietest moments and then presents them to her students where their ideas and enthusiasm consistently surprise and delight her.

Shoshi recently completed a Master’s degree in Jewish Education at Hebrew College’s Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education. She believes that Jewish learning should be “life-centered” where students’ needs and aspirations are central. To motivate her students, Shoshi believes in providing them with ongoing social experiences and in giving them a voice to fashion their learning experiences. She values the centrality of her relationships with her students and continuously working on building a sense of contentedness in and out of the classroom.

A proud mother of three Vancouver Talmud Torah graduates, Shoshi loves to garden, having many people over for Shabbat dinners and taking long walks on the beach with friends.

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28 Aug 2003

Nicki Black

Nicki recently joined VTT to head the development team – and she is eager and enthusiastic to contribute to the advancement of the school. Nicki spent nine years working in New York and Toronto in event planning and marketing and landed back in her hometown of Vancouver as the Director of Events at the Jewish Community Centre for five years. Now at VTT, Nicki is gaining a profound appreciation for the serious and deeply personal decision-making process donors experience as they align their passions and beliefs with charitable giving.
Nicki has a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University in Montreal and lives in Vancouver with her husband Steven and their son, Brooks.
You can find Nicki in the school’s administrative wing. She invites all members of our community to come stop by to say hi at any time!

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