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Lower School Bios

 
 
dHalle Dubin
Director of the Lower School 

Halle Dubin has taught at Joseph & Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 1995 and since 2005 has served as a lead teacher for grades 1-5. Halle has a Masters degree in Education from John Carroll University and a Masters of Educational Administration from Ursuline College. She has also served as the lead mentor for the Masters Apprentice Program at Ursuline College and Mandel JDS, coordinating masters degree students’ placements as student teachers; and as a Praxis III Assessor for the State of Ohio’s Department of Education. In this latter capacity she is responsible for interviewing and evaluating first year teachers.

Halle has been a member of Mandel JDS’s Educational Leadership Team since 2005, and has played a significant role in developing the Lower School’s team of teachers. She’s assumed these responsibilities – and the added duties of the Lower School Coordinator going forward – while she remains committed to and excited by her role as a classroom educator.

 
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Shlomit Avisar
Judaics Teacher

Shlomit Avisar has taught at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 2012. In 2005, she started as a substitute teacher and a volunteer tutor. In 2013, Shlomit began teaching Hebrew in the Ma’ayan program. Since 2014, Shlomit has taught Hebrew and Judaics for 1st through 3rd grades. Shlomit has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Ben Gurion University in Israel.

 
 
 
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Nurit Barnard
Judaics Teacher

Nurit Barnard has taught at Joseph & Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 2014. She served as a Judaics teacher for 1st through 5th grades. Nurit graduated from Siegal College and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Judaic Studies.  Nurit is a proud recipient of the following awards: Ratner – Goldberg Israel Fellowship Award in 2006, The Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2006, The Gross Award for Excellence in Teaching at Solomon Schechter Day School in 2001, and The Libby Braverman Award for Outstanding Teaching at Fairmount Temple in 1994. Nurit is currently serving as the school T’fillah and Spirit Coordinator.  In her free time, she enjoys creating Hebrew games and learning aids for her students.

 
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Mitch Borrow
3rd Grade Homeroom Teacher

Mitch Borrow has taught at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 2007.  Originally from Montreal, Canada, he graduated from Babson College in Boston with an MBA and recently went back to school for a Masters in Education from John Carroll University.  Prior to changing his career to Education, Mitch was a Director of Marketing for various consumer product companies. He is currently a 3rd grade homeroom teacher as well as a math specialist for grades 1st through 5th. In his free time, Mitch enjoys running, biking, swimming and hiking with his family in Boulder, Colorado.

 
 
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Altina Nudelman Buchris
5th-8th Grade Judaics Teacher

Altina Nudelman Buchris recently came to the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School as a Shlicha from Israel. She teaches Hebrew, Tanach and Parashat Hashavua in the 5th grade and she teaches Hebrew in the 7th grade. Altina holds a Master’s degree in mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University of Beer Sheva.  While in Israel, Altina taught high school students mathematics.

 
 
 
cChristine Catalogna
Language Arts Department Head and 2nd Grade Teacher

Christine Catalogna has worked at Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School as a 2nd Grade Teacher since 2009. She also serves as the Language Arts Department Head for the Lower School. She began her career at Mandel JDS as a student teacher in 3rd grade. Prior to that, Christine graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Cognitive Science. She went on to earn an M.A.Ed. and K-12 Reading Endorsement from Ursuline College’s Master Apprenticeship Program in 2009. Teaching is Christine’s true passion in life and she is grateful for the opportunity to inspire young minds every day. In her spare time, Christine loves reading books, swimming, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

 
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Jessica Dorner
Kindergarten Teacher

Jessica Dorner has taught at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 2015. She has previous experience teaching Pre-Kindergarten in Chagrin Falls. Jessica has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education (Prek-3rd grade) and an Early Childhood Generalist Endorsement in grades 4-5 from John Carroll University. She also has a Master’s degree in Education with a K-12 Reading Endorsement from John Carroll University. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family. Jessica also enjoys cooking, exercising, traveling and spending time outdoors, especially by the water.

 
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Karly Joseph
Kindergarten Teacher

Karly Joseph recently joined Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day school. Her prior teaching was in Knoxville, Tennessee and Columbus, Ohio where she taught in different grades ranging from Kindergarten through 5th grade. She attended Kent State University and received her Early Childhood license, then went on to earn her 4/5 endorsement. In Karly’s free time you can find her enjoying her time with her 2 kids and husband. She loves to spend time with her family, go out to eat, and find new adventures in Cleveland.

 
 
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Steve Karl
Math Teacher

Steve Karl has been a teacher for 16 years and has worked at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School since 2008. He teaches math and science to Lower School students. He earned a Master’s degree in Education from Baldwin Wallace College in 2002. His goal is to instill in his students a life-long love of learning and to persevere through difficult situations. He enjoys working with children, watching sports, and playing golf. He is married and has two children; Hannah is a sophomore at the University of Arizona and Sophie is a Junior at Beachwood High School.

 
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Rachel Lefkovitz
Judaics Teacher

Rachel Lefkovitz has been teaching Judaic Studies at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School for over twenty-five years. She previously taught at the Ratner Day School. Rachel graduated from Lesley College in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education with a minor in special education. She has also completed many graduate-level courses in Jewish Education at Siegal College. In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading, crocheting, and playing with her grandchildren.

 
 
mIlly Massey
Hebrew Immersion Teacher

Illy joined the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School staff in 2018.  She completed her graduate studies and earned a MSEd in Early Childhood Education at Hunter College in New York City. She began her teaching career as a Morah Chayelet (soldier teacher) in the I.D.F. Since she moved back to the U.S. fourteen years ago, she has taught in various educational settings. Her experience includes working for private and non-profit organizations as well as in NYC public schools. For the past two years, she taught 3-5 year olds at Luria Academy of Brooklyn. Prior to that, she spent eight years teaching Kindergarten at The Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan. She looks forward to continuing her commitment to educating young children at Mandel JDS.  

 
mMary Jo Murino
3rd Grade Teacher 

Mary Jo Murino joined the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in 2018 as a Third Grade General Studies teacher. She recently graduated from John Carroll University in May of 2018 receiving a Bachelor’s degree in both Early Childhood Education and Italian Studies. At John Carroll University, she was also a member of the Women’s Lacrosse team. Teaching is something Mary Jo is very passionate about and she is so grateful to have the opportunity to work with children who will learn, grow, explore, and create each and every day in her classroom. In her free time she enjoys cooking, living an active lifestyle, spending time with family and friends, and playing the guitar.

 
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Kayla Musso
Math Teacher / 5th Grade Homeroom Teacher

Kayla Musso joined Joseph and Florence Jewish Day School in 2018.  She graduated from John Carroll University with a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education.  While at John Carroll, she was a member of the Varsity Volleyball team and also participated in multiple service opportunities. Kayla has always had a passion for working with children and helping them grow. She is so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful and welcoming community. In her spare time, Kayla enjoys baking, coaching, living actively, and spending time with her family. 

 
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Sarit Ost
1st Grade Hebrew Immersion Teacher

Sarit Ost is a Kindergarten Hebrew Immersion Teacher and started teaching at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in 2018. Sarit has been an educator and a professional teacher in Israel for the past 18 years in Hebrew, Math and Science. Sarit has Masters in Education Management and a Bachelor’s of Education in Elementary School Studies. Sarit also managed 41 Kindergarten's camps in Israel and served in the Army as a Hebrew teacher for new immigrants from the Soviet Union. Sarit is very excited to start the school year and proud to be part of the Mandel JDS family. Sarit is proud to have three children who are also Mandel JDS students.  

 
pRachel England
Math Teacher

Rachel Patena joined the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School community in 2018 as a mathematics teacher. She attended John Carroll University and earned her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration.  While in her undergraduate program, she discovered a deep love of working with and teaching children. After finishing her degree, she stayed at John Carroll to earn her Masters in Education concentrating in middle school science and mathematics. During her graduate program, she had the opportunity to observe and shadow in a variety of school districts including Shaker, Solon, and Cleveland Heights/University Heights. Outside of the classroom, Rachel enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, and cooking.

sSari Schneider
Kindergarten Teacher

Sari Schneider has been a teacher for the past 12 years. She joined the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in 2017. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in Interior Design, she went back to school and received her teaching license in Early Childhood Education from Ashland University.  She then continued her education to earn a Reading Endorsement and Master's of Education in Literacy Instruction. Sari has taught students ranging from Pre-K through fourth grade and brings an element of positivity and excitement to every teaching experience. She has two children in the Early Childhood Program at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day school.  

 

kKaren Shiffman
1st Grade Teacher
Karen Shiffman has been teaching at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School for over 30 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from State University at Buffalo and an M.Ed. in Early Childhood from Kent State University. Karen is a native New Yorker who before moving to Cleveland, lived on Kibbutz Lotan in the Aravah Valley in Israel. As a kibbutz member, she taught art at the regional school and was the manager of a date plantation. Since arriving in Cleveland, she has been a faculty member at Agnon/Mandel JDS. She is a recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Steiger Family Grant for excellence in Jewish education, both of which honor outstanding teachers in Jewish Day Schools. Karen brings creativity and an in-depth understanding of how young children behave and learn in a school setting. She is also the proud mother of three Agnon/Mandel JDS school graduates. When not at school, Karen enjoys time with her family, snuggling with her dog, and creating colorful batiks in her studio.

 
sMichele Sudow
1st Grade Teacher

Michele Sudow has been teaching at Agnon / Mandel JDS for almost 40 years. She graduated from Kent State University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education. In 1980, she completed a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Kent State University. At Mandel JDS, Michele has taught Preschool, Kindergarten, and recently First Grade along with Second Grade math. She is the recipient of the 2009-2010 Plain Dealer Crystal Apple award for educators and the 2013 recipient of the Ratner Goldberg Teaching Award from the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland. She is the proud mother of three Agnon/Mandel JDS school graduates. Michele enjoys walking, reading, and being with her grandchildren.

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Alex Wendl
First Grade Teacher

Alex Wendl is a First grade general studies teacher at Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School. Alex graduated from Kent State University in December 2019, with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. This is her first full year teaching, she was a long-term substitute second grade teacher in the Bedford City School District. Alex enjoys watching the students in her class grow, socially, emotionally, as well as academically everyday! In her free time, Alex enjoys going on hikes with her dog Jet, traveling, and spending time with her family. She is very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team here at Mandel JDS.