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Star Tutor Sapir Wins Lola Katz Scholarship

On an unusually rainy day in September an ESRA contingent gathered to honor English Tutoring Program (ETP) volunteer Sapir Elkobi, recipient of the ETP Lola Katz Scholarship for 2023.

Sapir, a student in the English department of Oranim, was recognized for her tutoring and assistance in both the ETP Tops and Chat Away programs run by ESRA.

Sapir, who started tutoring small groups and individual students in October 2022, was awarded a bursary. Now entering the third year of her teaching degree, she was recognized for persevering despite challenges. One example was when two students turned up instead of one – they were twins! She tutored both.

Sapir tutored students from different grades and levels and is active, encouraging and responsive on all the related WhatsApp groups. She is in turn touched by the feedback she gets from her students, indicating the extent to which she influences their lives.

Sapir is inspired to help others learn English through her own love for the language. It saddens her that so many of her peers didn't enjoy learning English at school and she hopes to share her own commitment to and enthusiasm for the language to make a difference to the children she teaches.

Lola Katz reminded Sapir that all new teachers face challenges in every era. "For you and your fellow teachers the challenges are going to be gigantic", she said, referring specifically to Artificial Intelligence (AI). "As with any challenge, embrace it," she advised, adding, "at least you'll be free to teach. Inspire your students to dream, to believe 'Yes, I can'". Lola sees the upside of AI, suggesting to Sapir and all teachers that they will be able to diversify the tools for individual learners according to their needs and wants.

The Lola Katz scholarship was established in 2021 in recognition and appreciation of Lola's dedication and development of ESRA's English tutoring program. Pat Talshia, the national coordinator for ESRA's English Tutoring programs, called Lola "the mother of ETP ESRA", describing her as professional, dedicated and organized. "We have been privileged to have blossomed under her guidance," said Pat, "with thousands of teachers and pupils having benefited from Lola's wisdom."

Lola, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and made aliyah in 1969, has had an esteemed career as an English teacher, trainer, and course designer. She has volunteered for ESRA in various English projects since 1990, including the Chat Away and ESRA Tutoring Online program (TOPS) and is credited with having founded the English Tutoring Program.

That Lola is up to speed and talking about AI should be no surprise. According to daughter Sharon, one of Lola's superpowers is her ability to move forward with technology, in line with her own advice, embracing any challenge. As an example, when Covid required people isolating and before many of us had heard of Zoom, Lola suggested ESRA use the tool to continue its work. In her 80s, Lola was one of the first to embrace the use of Zoom when the world changed around her. "Now we will bring the periphery into the center," she remarked, as just another example of her ability to have vision, be creative, adaptive and move forward.

ESRA CEO Sunny Marshansky believes the world today needs many more people like Lola Katz, recognizing Sapir as one who is following a similar path. She encourages others to volunteer with ESRA in the English tutoring programs, referencing the difference one individual can make in so many lives.

ESRA Chairperson Nella Feldsher closed proceedings with a personal anecdote that brought her full circle from a new immigrant to the position she holds today. "It was 1990 when we came to Israel from Saint Petersburg, Russia. Our suitcases were lost, and the children were six and two years old. It was ESRA volunteers who came with clothes and support. They were so nice and helpful. When I realized that there was a chance to be a part of this, all these years later, I jumped at the chance to help people become bigger than they are and to change people's lives. If we had more people like those gathered here today, the country would look different," she said. Not least of all, people like Sapir Elkobi and Lola Katz.



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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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