Lower School

Lower school teachers impart their love of books, geography, science, and Torah to their students. Trained at Teacher's College Columbia University summer workshops in Readers and Writers Workshop, our general studies teachers have taken student writing to new heights.

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Batsheva Berman, Hebrew Language Coordinator and Grades 5-8 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, was born and raised in Israel and served in an education unit of the Israeli Army. Batsheva teaches both Hebrew Language and Holy Studies/Limudei Kodesh/לימודי קודש in Hebrew and has pioneered a Torah study track conducted entirely in Hebrew, for which she wrote the curriculum for grades 5-7. Before coming to Heilicher she taught Hebrew language at Torah Academy in Minneapolis for 20 years and wrote all of the holiday programs for the school. She was also in charge of the summer Hebrew program at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin for 20 years. Batsheva continues her education by taking summer classes in teaching a second language at the Karla Institute at the University of Minnesota and taking Torah study classes at the Pardes and Herzog Institutes in Israel.


Sara Wolk Bernstein, M.A.Ed., Grades 3-5 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, is a native of Minneapolis and has been on faculty at Heilicher since 1992. She earned a B.A. in theater with a minor in Hebrew from the University of Minnesota. She attended the University of Judaism in Los Angeles for graduate school (now called the American Jewish University), where she earned her Master of Education and Administration with additional credits equal to a second bachelor's degree in Jewish studies. Before returning to the Twin Cities, Sara held positions with the Jewish Community Centers Association of Greater Los Angeles, LA Unified Public Schools, and LA Bureau of Jewish Education. She has traveled to Israel many times, including as a chaperone/leader for high school educational touring programs. During her years at Heilicher, she has continued her own learning in areas of special education, multiple intelligences, curriculum design, and instructional differentiation, and she has held numerous positions including Assistant Principal, Director of Judaic Studies, Hebrew Resource Coordinator, and classroom teacher.


Michael Brown, M.A., Lower School Learning Specialist, earned his B.A. in sociology from the University of Illinois and an M.A. in special education–learning disabilities from Mankato State University. He has a current Minnesota teaching license in elementary education and special education, L.D., E.B.D. He has also earned a certificate in gifted education from Hamline University. Michael joined the Heilicher team in 1994. He likes being a valued asset of the community, helping children with learning challenges like math enrichment, and teaching chess to kindergarten classes. He is also the proud father of young ladies and enjoys hiking, biking, canoeing, and gardening.



Maddie CardarelleGrade 1 General Studies Teacher, attended the University of North Dakota and earned her B.S. in elementary education and minored in early childhood education. Previously she taught at Heilicher as a third-grade Teaching Assistant. She also was a lead preschool teacher at Primrose Schools in St. Louis Park. During her time as a student teacher, she taught first grade at Normandale Hills Elementary in Bloomington, Minnesota, where a lot of her family members attended school. Maddie worked at two summer camps in the Bloomington and Edina areas as a counselor and advocate. When Maddie is not in school, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog as well as with her family and friends.



Britton Cook, M.S., Grade 5 General Studies Teacher, earned her B.A. in English from the University of Florida and her M.S. in education from Neuman University. Britton taught at the upper elementary level in both public and private schools in Florida, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania before moving to Minnesota and joining the Heilicher faculty in July of 2015. Britton lives in Edina with her husband, Tom, and daughter, Candy. Her sons currently live in Pennsylvania and Washington state. When she is not at school, Britton can be found reading, doing anything outdoors, or traveling.



Sammie DanovskyGrade 1 General Studies Teacher, attended Drake University and earned her B.S. in elementary education with an endorsement in K-12 special education. Previously she taught preschool at People Serving People. During her time as a student teacher, she taught in a kindergarten classroom, a multi-age elementary special education classroom, and a seventh-grade special education classroom. Sammie spent six summers working at Camp Olami in the roles of program director, advocate, and counselor. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors, reading, and spending time with family.



Jen GilbertsonGrade 2 General Studies Teacher, earned her B.S. in elementary education from Valley City State University in North Dakota. She joined Heilicher in 2018 after several years teaching preschool, kindergarten, and first grade in the metro followed by several years working for Fraser. During her tenure at Fraser, she worked as an advocate serving families and children with extraordinary needs. Jennifer enjoys traveling, especially coast-bound, reading, baking, and spending time with her husband and children.



Polly Holzman, Grade 4 General Studies Teacher and Lower School Coordinator, joined the Heilicher faculty in 2016. She holds a B.A. in communications and a certificate in women's studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as a certificate in day school teaching as part of the DeLeT Fellowship at Hebrew Union College. Previously she taught second and third grades at the Brawerman Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA, and first grade at Temple Isaiah Religious School. Polly is a native Minnesotan.




Ilena Marron, M.S., Grade 5 General Studies Teacher and Curriculum and Instructional Coordinator, earned her B.A. in art history and M.A. in teacher leadership from Brandeis University and her M.S. in elementary education from Fordham University. Ilena joined the Heilicher faculty in 2002 and previously taught in New York City public schools. Ilena has a passion for teaching reading and writing workshop and has attended Columbia Teacher's College Writing Institute several times. Ilena is committed to creating a nurturing and caring environment to help students meet their potential. Beyond education, Ilena loves spending time with her family, watching movies, cooking, and attending cultural events.



Aimee Orkin, M.F.A., Art Teacher, earned a bachelor's degree in art from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and an associate's degree in architectural drafting from Minneapolis Technical Institute. She holds an M.F.A. in scene design for theater from Brandeis University. Aimee has been teaching art at Heilicher since 1995. She enjoyed having her two daughters as Heilicher art students from kindergarten through eighth grade. Her art projects most recently have included painting and drawing celebrations of life, murals, marriage contracts/ketubot/כתובות, and other Judaic art. Her artwork is in the permanent Judaic collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She is a member of both the Jewish Women's Artist Circle and the Jewish Artist's Lab, and she exhibits with them regularly. Visit the artist circle website at



Crystal ReeseGrade 2 General Studies Teacher, joined Heilicher in 2016 after four years teaching second grade at The Community School of Excellence in St. Paul. Crystal has a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a Master of Education, both from the University of Minnesota. She brings a varied skill set, pedagogical knowledge, passion for teaching the whole child, and palpable enthusiasm for her work with children.





David Shaw, M.A., Music Specialist and ISACS Accreditation Chair/Teacher Representative, joined the Heilicher faculty in 2001. He earned his B.A. in music education from Western Illinois University and his M.A. in educational administration from the University of St. Thomas. David also completed a fellowship for Aspiring School Heads through the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). David has advanced training in the Orff method of teaching as well as in the Kodály and Dalcroze music approaches. He is extensively involved in the accreditation process for our school with the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS). He completed his three-year tenure on the Professional Services Committee at ISACS in 2015 and assisted in conference/workshop planning for member schools in a number of states. His other ISACS work includes being on visiting teams to evaluate programs at different independent schools in the Midwest. David also serves on the Teacher Services Committee for the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) and is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). David loves learning in addition to traveling and especially enjoys seaside destinations on both coasts.



Hadassa SlagerGrades 4-6 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, was born and raised in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She made aliyah to Israel and studied and worked there for 11 years. Hadassah moved to Baltimore with her family 17 years ago and then relocated to the Twin Cities in 2006. She has taught Judaics, Hebrew, and ESL in the Netherlands, Israel, Baltimore, and here in the Twin Cities. She most recently taught International Baccalaureate Hebrew language at St. Louis Park High School, where many Heilicher alumni were among her students.




Rebecca (Becka) Steinberg, M.A.Ed., Grade 3 General Studies Teacher, earned her certificate in elementary education from Grinnell College and her M.A.Ed. from Hamline University. Becka joined the Heilicher faculty in 2000. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Dan, sons, Andrew and Ryan (both Heilicher alumni), and dog, Snickers. Her other hobbies include music, reading, walking, watching Twins games, and traveling.





Barbara Taragan, M.A., Kindergarten and Grade 2 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, earned a B.A. in child psychology and elementary education from the University of Minnesota and her B.A. in English literature from the Ben Gurion University as well as an M.A. in Jewish studies from Gratz College. Barbara joined the Heilicher faculty in 1991 and spent a sabbatical in 2005-06 participating in the Senior Educators Program at the Melton Centre at the Hebrew University. Barbara lived in Israel for twenty-five years where she taught English at the Eshel Hanasi High School. Since returning to the United States, Barbara has been teaching at both Heilicher and the Minneapolis Talmud Torah. She is the proud parent of three children—Maayan, Afek, and Yamit—and proud grandma/savta/סבתא to Gal, Elah, Einav, Almog, Noa, and Orly.



Victoria (Vic) Thor, Art Teacher and Grades 3-4 Teaching Assistant, earned her B.A. magna cum laude in art history and studio arts with minors in Jewish studies and Spanish from the University of Minnesota. Vic joined the Heilicher faculty in 1999. She coordinates Heilicher’s Art Adventure program, an art appreciation and history program in conjunction with the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She is particularly interested in integrating art with other areas of study, such as natural sciences and technology. Vic serves on the Sabes JCC Tychman Shapiro Gallery committee. Beyond children and art, she is interested in travel, wildlife and habitat preservation, gardening, and reading. Vic is the proud parent of two Heilicher alumni: Josef and Lily. Her family also includes husband, Marty Harris, a professional illustrator and graphic designer, and two adopted retired racing greyhounds.



Susan Vlodaver, Lower School Science Teacher and Makerspace Educator, earned her B.A. in child study from Tufts University and has completed coursework toward an M.A. in public affairs from the University of Minnesota. Susan joined the Heilicher faculty in 2005. Previously Susan taught for several years in early childhood programs in the Boston area. She also has studied child and family policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and has worked as a policy analyst for the state of Minnesota. Susan enjoys reading, knitting, walking, and spending time with her family.