Every morning, Florette Benhamou begins her first-grade class at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills with a "Morning Meeting." Students assemble on the rug to greet each other, play games, and participate in open discussions. This fun and inclusive start to the day ensures that all her young students feel secure, comfortable, and ready to tackle math, reading, science, history, educational technology, and even coding. Mrs. Benhamou hopes that first-graders leave her classroom ready to "strive for their personal best and take pride in their efforts."
Mrs. Benhamou's first-grade General Studies classroom is a place of growth, exploration and discovery where students transition from the play-focused atmosphere of kindergarten. "The classroom is where I feel most alive as my students challenge me with their curiosity, creativity, and thirst for knowledge," she says. Beyond her role as a teacher, Mrs. Benhamou also serves as the leader of Hillel's accreditation process with CAIS (California Association of Independent Schools). She has been at the forefront of the school's character and middot-building program, "Character Counts."
Mrs. Benhamou is the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Burma and Calcutta; her father served as an educator and administrator at Hillel for more than three decades. Following in his footsteps, Mrs. Benhamou began her involvement with Hillel as a teen, working as a teacher's assistant and camp counselor. She worked at a law firm and in retail, but teaching, she knew, was her passion, so she went directly to the classroom at Hillel after graduating from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in English. That was 27 years ago, and Mrs. Benhamou has been devoted to the Hillel community and the promise of Jewish education ever since. Her ultimate goal: for all her students "to appreciate being in a Jewish school and to value being good, being kind, and being respectful, so they in turn can give back to others and their own community."
Note: This biography was current at the time this educator received the Award