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.

Learn More About Lower School

Amanda Awend, M.A., Grade 1 Teaching Assistant, joined Heilicher in 2021 as the Kindergarten Plus Teacher. She holds a degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Wisconsin. Amanda comes to Heilicher with many years of teaching experience and also serves as the Director of Young Families Engagement at Beth El Synagogue. Amanda has a love for process-based curriculum and music and often incorporates these into her teaching style and the classroom's daily routines. Amanda and her husband, Berek, share a love of music and created two albums of original Jewish music called "Jewish Americana" and "Peace & Harmony." They have two wonderful children who are students at Heilicher, Mila and Ezra.


Batsheva Berman, Hebrew Language Coordinator/Grades 5, 7, and 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., Grade 3 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 2 Teaching Assistant, 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.


Jodi Danovsky, M.A., Grade 3 General Studies Teacher, joined Heilicher in 2016. She holds an undergraduate degree in therapeutic recreation and a master's degree in K-12 special education with an emphasis on learning disabilities from the University of Minnesota as well as a teaching license from Concordia University. She is also trained in Orton-Gillingham and Responsive Classroom. Previously she taught kindergarten through fourth grade at Talmud Torah of St. Paul for 15 years and worked in inclusion at Mt. Zion Temple and Yachad. Jodi enjoys running, reading, and watching her children in various sports and theater endeavors.



Sammie DanovskyGrade 1 General Studies Teacher/K-2 Team Lead, 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 4 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.



Elena Levitt, M.A., M.A.Ed., Grades 4-5 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, earned her B.A. in Hebrew letters and M.A.Ed. from American Jewish University. She also earned her B.A. in political science and journalism and M.A. in liberal studies with a concentration in Jewish studies from the University of Memphis. Elena has worked in formal and informal education in both teaching and administrative capacities in Memphis, Los Angeles, St. Paul, and Minneapolis. Elena joined the Heilicher faculty in 2007. She is very happy to have come home to St. Louis Park with her husband, Matt, to raise their two amazing daughters. She has a great passion for sharing the breadth and depth of Jewish learning with her students. In her free time Elena enjoys reading, walking, and spending time with family and friends.


Ilena Marron, M.S., Grade 5 General Studies Teacher/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.



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.




Maayan Scholder, Grades 2 and 6-8 Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher, was born and raised in Gedera, Israel, where she taught elementary education for the past 11 years. A recognized leader in Israel’s education system, Maayan pioneered a unique chavruta partnered learning method for successfully teaching Jewish Studies to grade-school students and has served in many educational leadership positions such as pedagogical coordinator and field studies facilitator. Maayan holds a B.A. in criminology from Bar Ilan University and studied elementary education at Achva College with a focus on Hebrew linguistics.  Furthermore, she has a special accreditation in teaching Israeli Jewish Culture from the prestigious Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Having recently moved from Israel to the Twin Cities with her family, Maayan is excited to join the Heilicher family. 



Hadassa SlagerKindergarten and Grade 4 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 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/3-5 Team Lead, 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., Grade 1 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.



Susan Vlodaver, Lower School Science Teacher/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.