Principals travel overseas for High School in Israel experience


Photo Courtesy of Doreen Brandes

Principal Joan Benz and assistant principal Doreen Brandes paired up with educators from all over the nation in an enriching experience to learn about High School in Israel opportunities.

By Jake Herman and Max Kandel

This summer, Principal Joan Benz and Assistant Principal Doreen Brandes traveled to Israel with a group of educators from across the country, where they learned about Alexander Muss High School in Israel (HSI) and experienced some major cities and landmarks of the country.


HSI is a high school program that allows jewish high school students to take a quarter or semester abroad in Israel. During the 2016-17 school year, eight CHS students attended an eight-week program at HSI. Benz and Brandes went on a program known as the Educators and Administrators Seminar Study Abroad Program to learn more about the unique experience that CHS students have there.


“Traveling really makes education pure,” Brandes said. “I loved experiencing the language, the culture, the food and the people.”


While visiting the HSI campus, Benz and Brandes toured the school’s outdoor learning centers, dorms and classrooms. Along with other educators from across the country, the two also spent time in the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where they visited many cultural centers and food markets.


According to HSI’s official website, the program prides itself on providing experiential learning to its students. While studying abroad, students travel almost every day, and apply what they learn in the classroom to the outside world in Israel.


As there is so much history in the country, Israel is a fantastic place for experiential learning. HSI tries to implement a lot of direct learning so that the students can learn while also delving the country’s history.


“I enjoyed experiencing how [HSI] takes their curriculum and immerses it into outside lands,” Brandes said. “I felt like I was walking through history with every step.”


Benz and Brandes are all for increasing experiential learning opportunities at CHS if it were possible and practical. However, some logistical challenges exist in providing opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom due to the way schedules are structured at CHS.

“What you learn in the classroom almost always applies to life outside,” Benz said. “I would love to see more field trips [at CHS], but it is difficult to find time and funding.”


One destination that had a huge impact on Benz and Brandes was a stop at one of two places where HSI students earn SSL hours while studying abroad: an organization called “Save a Child’s Heart.” “Save a Child’s Heart” is an organization that brings children in need of cardiac surgery from all over the world, mainly from lesser developed countries, to a hospital in Jerusalem for treatment. During HSI, students had the opportunity to spend time with children recuperating from their surgeries.


“[At ‘Save a Child’s Heart’] there were no global barriers or cultural differences…mothers from different countries were taking care of each other’s children,” Brandes said. “It was moving; it gave me the chills.”


Another highlight for Benz and Brandes was the unique food offered in Israel. Brandes was particularly enamored with shakshuka, an Israeli breakfast food that contains sunny-side-over eggs along with tomato sauce and other spices.


Overall, Benz and Brandes had an outstanding experience on their trip.


“It was all amazing to see,” Benz said. “The humanitarian efforts were such a contrast to the news we often see.”


When asked if they would be interested in going back to Israel, Benz and Brandes responded with a resounding yes.


“I would love to go back, experience the country more, and talk to more of the HSI teachers,” Brandes said. “It really enriched me.”