Israeli teaching program broadens one graduate's horizons


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Throughout his once-in-a-lifetime teaching opportunity in Israel, graduate Joshua Finn has encountered unique challenges and surprises.

And he wouldn't want it any other way.

After graduating from Central Michigan University in May 2013, the Southfield native took a job teaching English to elementary school students through the Israeli Teaching Fellows program. After background and health checks and several interviews, Finn secured the position and has been teaching in Ashdod, Israel ever since.

While Finn was pursuing a degree in broadcast and cinematic arts, he came across a pop-up ad on Facebook offering a 10-week teaching program in Israel.

He clicked the link, and from there his journey began.

“At first I thought I would study abroad in college, but because of all of my extracurricular (activities) and resident assistant position, I was too busy to leave and graduate on time,” Finn said. “I figured that working abroad after graduation would be the best option.”

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His RA position in Beddow Hall prepared him for a year of teaching, after organizing programs and forming bonds with residents.

Finn’s old Residence Hall Director, Crystal Sattelberg, said his enthusiasm with residents and ability to get them excited about hall activities were tells he could have a future in education.

After he mentioned the Israeli program several times, Sattelberg said she could tell he had a strong interest.

“I have a saying with a lot of my student staff that go on to whatever ... 'you can always do something for two years,'” Sattelberg said. “You can always do something for a year. Out of the grand scheme of how long you are going to live, a year is not going to be that bad.”

In fact, since making the decision to move abroad and teach, Finn has encountered rewards and learning experiences that have made the trip worthwhile.

Teaching a culture

Many of his young students are interested in, not only learning the English language, but theAmerican culture as well.

“I’ve become more like a mentor, as well as teaching the kids English,” Finn said. “It’s fun to teach about your own culture, as well as teach a language you’re so used to speaking.”

Varied aspects of the Israeli and American cultures have pushed Finn to overcome confusion and misunderstanding. His experience, which can be best described as culture shock, has not been without challenges.

Since the program began, Finn has had to acclimate to certain differences in the education system abroad. There, children can run in the halls, call their teachers by their first names, and are subject to a different disciplinary system.

Finn uses his resources back home in seeking out advice.

Despite facing challenges, Finn has the support of his family and friends back in his home country. A former member of Hillel, CMU's Jewish student organization, Finn maintains a connection with e-board member and close friend, Alana Rosenblatt.

A senior from West Bloomfield, Rosenblatt accompanied Finn on a previous, shorter trip to Israel, and still speaks with him weekly.

“The RSO gave him support, and he still has that support here at Central,” she said. “Whenever we meet, we always talk about Josh and how he’s doing.”

Both Rosenblatt and Sattelberg emphasized Israel's perfect fit for Finn after graduation. Both remain in contact with him as he continues teaching, and are confident in his abilities.

“All my staff members are very close with me, but he is one that stands out because he was just a unique character,” Sattelberg said. “It’s great to still have connections with him and (to) see how far he goes.”

Heading back to the U.S. on June 29, Finn hopes to put his passion for teaching to good use in a career in higher education, potentially in university Jewish services.


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