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2012 Award Winner and Lesson Plan

Allyson Mattanah
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Allyson Mattanah is a teacher at the Kesher School of Congregation Beit Tikvah in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mattanah was the 2012 winner of the Inaugural Natalia Twersky Educator Award.

Allyson Mattanah has long wanted to be a teacher, but describes being “derailed several times” from pursuing her true passion to educate kids. While working as a registered nurse, Mattanah obtained a certificate to teach elementary education but was daunted by the challenges that teachers face in their classrooms. “In the Emergency Room where I worked,” she wrote to JWA, “I could restore a patient’s flailing heartbeat, inject muscle tissue with aplomb, triage a sick child, even assist a doctor in pulling debris from a patient’s eye or guts—but I could not imagine being able to calm a classroom of 13 year old children who had lived a life of poverty, as I had seen a teacher do in one of my placements in a public middle school.”

Since her career change to law, Mattanah has been following her dream of teaching “in baby steps.” What began as a volunteer position on her congregation’s school committee transformed into a role as the Committee Chair, and Mattanah led the Kesher school to restructure following a “Montessori-inspired approach” that meets the needs of the small, vibrant community. Staff turnover led her down yet another path as the educator and guide for the Kesher School’s 4-6 grade class, where she has been teaching since 2008.

Kesher School Students Learn About Pauline Newman
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Students in Allyson Mattanah's class at the Kesher School read about and discuss Pauline Newman.
Girls Listen to a Rose Schneiderman Speech
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Two young girls in Allyson Mattanah's class at the Kesher School listen to a recording of her reading a speech by Rose Schneiderman.

In her statement to JWA upon receiving the award, Mattanah wrote: “I knew when I submitted the award that the JWA would either love my submission, or be completely dumbfounded by it.  It is very different.  The children move from station to station, sometimes with oranges in their mouth, the reward for completing piecework satisfactorily, listening, reading, and debating the question at hand.  I, as their guide, am in the background of their work.  The students construct their own experience of the content provided.  I am overjoyed that the JWA loved it.  I am deeply moved that the JWA understood it.”

You can read Mattanah’s acceptance speech on the Making Trouble/Making History Luncheon page.

Winning Lesson Materials

For her winning lesson, Who Will You Be: Esthers and Vashtis in the Labor Movement, Allyson used material from, including photos, biographies, original letters and speeches, to help her 4th–6th graders learn about Clara Lemlich Shavelson, Pauline Newman, and Rose Schneiderman–Jewish women who were instrumental in the struggle for workers’ rights. She asked her students to decide: was each woman more like Esther (who, in the Purim story, worked within the power structure) or Vashti (who defied it)?

You can download a PDF of Allyson Mattanah's winning Lesson "Esthers and Vashtis in the Labor Movement: Who will you be?" In addition to the links in the lesson, JWA has background information on the Triangle Waist Factory Fire as well as on the women featured in the lesson: Esther, Vashti, Pauline Newman, Clara Lemlich, and Rose Schneiderman.

If you teach the lesson, send us an email and let us know how it went.

The deadline to apply for the 2013 Twersky Award is Monday, May 13, 2013. APPLY NOW

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "2012 Award Winner and Lesson Plan." (Viewed on January 19, 2017) <>.


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