2018-07-04 / Local News

Kellman Brown teacher is honored with two JCF awards


FAMILY: Parents Eileen Bancroft and Sam Selzer; Sisters Stacey Macaluso and Karie Newman; Husband Michael; Sons Simon, 16, and Jordon, 14

HOMETOWN: Cherry Hill


FAVORITE SHABBAT FOOD: Home-baked challah

HOBBIES: Reading, yoga, JCC exercise classes, running and walking outdoors, vacations with family

Ask Toby Miller about the most important lessons she teaches her Kellman Brown Academy second graders and she will not waste a breath on reading, writing or math. The key to learning, said the veteran educator, is creating an atmosphere of respect and kindness.

“What I am so passionate about as a teacher is establishing a really nice community within my classroom with mutual respect between teacher and student and between student to student,” she explained. “In creating that type of environment, you set your kids up for success: Academically, emotionally and socially.”

Miller exudes kindness. Both inside and outside the classroom, whether in conversation with a seven-year-old or a 99-year-old, she seems to model positive behavior. It is one of many attributes that prompted KBA educators to nominate her for two Jewish Community Foundation, Inc. scholarships, said KBA Principal Rachel Zivic.

“I feel like Toby represents everything we are all about,” said Zivic. “She is deserving of all kinds of honors.”

During the last week of the 2018 school year, Miller was surprised to learn she was the recipient of two awards, which she received during JCF’s annual Scholarship & Emerging Leader Awards Dessert Reception on June 25 at the Weinberg Jewish Community Campus.

She was given the Helen and Harry Pinsky Award for Outstanding Professional Leadership and the Schreibstein Award for Emerging Community Leadership. Between the two prizes, she will receive $1,500 to use towards continuing education courses. In total, 15 recipients received scholarships totaling $23,000 that night.

Zivic said that when the application for scholarships crossed her desk last fall, she immediately thought of Miller.

“It’s a great way to honor her for all of the dedication she puts in to the students, and also to the Kellman family,” she said.

A Cherry Hill native, Miller said she wanted to be a teacher since childhood.

“I felt I was put on this earth to do two things: To be a mom and to be a teacher,” said Miller. “I always felt I had a connection to children and was able to relate to them, understand their differences and help them to succeed and feel good about themselves.”

After graduating from Rider University, Miller taught at a preschool and then public first grade in North Jersey before taking four years off when her own boys were young. After moving back to South Jersey, she revived her teaching career in M’kor Shalom’s preschool, where her children attended school. When her youngest son Jordon was in elementary school, Miller decided to take a year off to look for the right job.

While considering options, she volunteered with the JCRC’s Raab/Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Educational Center, travelling to area schools to read books that stressed tolerance and acceptance. She also volunteered as an educational coordinator for the Jewish Relief Agency.

Although she was looking for a public school job, she landed her teaching position at KBA three years ago and realized early on how well it suited her. With the dual curriculum in Hebrew and English, she spends half the day with her students, who then are with the Hebrew teacher. She makes the most of her time with the kids working on interdisciplinary projects, including the “L’dor Vador” movies she has helped her students create for the past two years for The Cherry Hill Volvo Cars Jewish Film Festival of the Katz JCC. Each student or his or her family member is filmed explaining a tradition or ritual items passed down through the family.

“It’s really the highlight of my school year,” Miller said. “It’s something that really inspired my students to learn about their family’s history and things they continue to pass on from generation to generation. We incorporated so much into it: Geography, writing and reading, and even a little bit of math.”

Another benefit of teaching at a Jewish Day School, she said, is working closely with Israeli women, which she said has been a great way to deepen her own understanding of Israeli culture.

“I really think Kellman is where I was meant to be,” she said. “I love teaching in a Jewish environment.” 

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