"Children Spend More Awake Hours in School Than They Do at Home"
ASHAR Principal Jenna Schuh Reflects on Her Educational Journey
When Jennah Schuh was a child, her parents, both educators, offered her the following career advice.
“You can do anything you want,” they said, “But don’t become an educator.”
Schuh, the principal of ASHAR in Monsey and a graduate of the Touro College Graduate School of Education (GSE), heeded their advice for a time. She went to college and received a degree in graphic design. After working for several years as a graphic designer, she was laid off and took a job as an arts-and-crafts instructor at a sleep-away camp. While Schuh planned to return to the graphic design world, a fellow instructor, who was also the principal of a Jewish day school in Brooklyn, quickly saw her potential.
“She offered me a job teaching for the next year,” recalled Schuh with a laugh. “I told her I wasn’t trained to be a teacher. She told me I knew what I was doing.”
The following September Schuh found herself face-to-face with a classroom of third-graders. Looking to learn more about the education field, Schuh enrolled in GSE.
“It was a breath of fresh air,” said Schuh. “I was with people in the same field dealing with the same kind of day-to-day things, but they had different perspectives based on different lifestyles.”
She said that the two most important lessons she took from the school were to seek out help when needed and to continue her education.
“There’s a loneliness in the classroom,” said Schuh. “You need to seek out help from other people. Don’t go it alone. The second lesson I took was to always continue learning. You need to be constantly professionally educating yourself.”
In 2007, while spending the summer with her parents in Rockland County, she came across an ad on Craigslist for a resource room teacher at ASHAR, a Jewish school in Monsey. ASHAR was founded by Rabbi Nachum Muschel, a Holocaust survivor. The school stresses the importance of a strong Jewish identity and connection to Israel. Five years later, when the general studies principal left, Schuh was asked to take over.
“I took a leap of faith,” she said.
After a year and a half in her new role, Schuh decided she wanted to return to school for a degree in Educational Leadership and Administration.
“I needed to be more secure with my role,” said Schuh. After looking at several programs, she decided to return to Touro.
“Touro understands what it means to be a working Jewish mother and a professional,” said Schuh. “It just made sense to go back.”
The first thing that impressed Schuh about the program was that many of the professors were themselves, school administrators.
“The professors knew what they were talking about,” said Schuh. “A lot of the lessons were very practical. If this is your issue, this is how you deal with it.”
She also appreciated the comradery of the classes.
“Classes were an educational community where people helped each other out,” she stated.
Taking a combination of hybrid online courses and live classes in Manhattan, Schuh completed her degree in 2016.
“I remember Dr. [George] Goldstein telling us to not second guess ourselves,” recalled Schuh. “Don’t be wishy washy. Make an educated decision and stick with it. The worst type of administrator is an administrator that is unsure of him or herself.”
Last year, ASHAR honored her for her service to the school.
“I thanked every single teacher in the building because I really believe I learned something new from everyone,” said Schuh. “Children spend more awake hours in school than they do at home. It’s almost as if you are creating their worlds. All of what you hold dear you can impart to the children you teach—whatever your passions or values—you can create a whole generation of people who share them. It’s a kind of immortality.”