Leslie Smith Rosen: An Epstein Hillel Gem
As part of Marblehead Beacon’s Teacher Appreciation Week effort, we are highlighting select educators across Marblehead’s schools, focusing on some who were nominated by members of the community.
Epstein Hillel teacher Leslie Smith Rosen lives in Marblehead, but her life began in the 1960s in Iran, where she was born. With a father in the foreign service, Rosen’s world view was shaped by years spent living abroad – at times calling Chad and France home – and later on Baltimore, Atlanta, Annapolis, and Las Vegas. It was in the latter four places that she spent time pursuing her career in education, including earning two master’s degrees: one in education and the other in Jewish studies.
Although she has always loved the North Shore and has family in Marblehead going back some two hundred years, Rosen and her husband moved here fairly recently in order to help care for her elderly mother. Rosen’s now-retired husband, she says, has shown incredible devotion to her mother, which she credits with helping allow her to balance family obligations and work commitments.
Rosen has worked in both administration and in the classroom over her 40-plus year career, and she loves both. Most of this time has been spent at Jewish day schools, where she has taught both secular and religious subjects. At Marblehead’s Epstein Hillel – a local K through eighth grade Jewish day school – Rosen teaches language arts and social studies to fifth through eighth graders, and she smiles broadly when speaking about it. “I have such a wonderfully supportive Head of School in Amy Gold,” says Rosen, noting that the wide latitude she has been given to develop curricula has been enormously helpful in terms of promoting student success. “Each group of students is different,” she says, and being able to tailor her teaching to the strengths of the individuals in each class makes for an engaging and fruitful schooling experience.
From running classes in a Socratic style, to creating lesson plans that divide students into the poleis of Athens and Sparta, Rosen thoroughly enjoys bringing subjects to life. “I really want to prepare them for high school,” she says. And she knows what that entails. Rosen herself was a high school teacher in years past and recognizes that whether her eighth graders go on to Marblehead High School or elsewhere, adequate preparation for those years is imperative.
In nominating Rosen for this Marblehead Beacon series on special teachers, one parent describes her as bringing “tremendous energy and knowledge to Epstein Hillel.” And because Rosen also serves as the school’s theater director, her talents extend beyond the classroom. “She is an amazing teacher that led me to my first two musical productions,” writes one student. Later this month, the school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof will be presented at Marblehead Little Theater to an already sold-out crowd.
The effort involved in managing the production of Fiddler is significant, but having pulled off a wildly successful Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat production last year, Rosen is optimistic that this year’s labor of love will be an equally worthwhile experience for her students.
Rosen – like many well-loved teachers – finds it difficult to heap praise upon herself. Asked about moments that stand out in terms of her own achievements, she refers me to a Talmudic saying that states, “I’ve learned much from my teachers, and more from my colleagues, but from my students: most of all.” Rosen notes that “education is such a reciprocal relationship,” and that her students “keep [her] learning.” She holds the letters and emails she’s received from former students close to her heart and loves when she gets visits from individuals she taught years ago. “I’m super lucky to have had such grateful students,” she says.
When school wraps up in June, Rosen and her husband are headed off for a bucket-list trip that was canceled once due to Covid and once for health-related reasons. The vacation is finally around the corner, with Florence and Venice to kick things off, followed by a cruise down the Adriatic Coast and around the Greek Islands, ending with several days in a most fitting place for the teacher of all things Ancient Greece: Athens.