Softly spoken teacher tames the toughest school

May 26, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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Shimon Waronker spoke to teachers and parliamentarians in the NSW Parliament today of the methodology used to turn one of New York’s toughest schools into a palace of hope.

The 41-yr-old father of six is visiting Sydney only and will speak on Thursday night at a fund-raiser for the city’s North Shore Chabad.

L-r: Shimon Waronker, Rabbis Nochum Shapiro and Mendel Kastel P: Henry Benjamin

New York’s Chabad enclave in Crown Heights is home to the Waronker family. He told the mostly non-Jewish audience at the lecture, hosted jointly by the Jewish House and North Shore Chabad, that he would be outlining at the fund-raiser how the Torah had helped him strategise his way to success

But it took more than the Torah to help this remarkable teacher turn a pack of lions into lambs. Waronker is an ex-U.S army intelligence officer whose mother tongue is Spanish and who has been through specialised Harvard courses. He had to call on all his resources when to took over as principal of Public School No 22 in the Bronx…a school which had seen six principals depart its doors in the two years prior to Waronker’s arrival in 2004.

The Chabad-Lubavitcher educator told J-Wire: “There were no Jews in the school…the students were mostly Black and Hispanic.”

His lecture carefully detailed the techniques used to break down the gang culture which had dominated the school society. Although he is no longer at the school, Waronker stays in touch with the methods he used to turn street kids into aspiring doctors and lawyers.

Waronker does have a word of advice for Australian educators. He told J-Wire: “Really know the child.Know the learning modalities of the child…and a ratio of 15 pupils to one teacher would be ideal.”

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