Our highly-skilled specialists in music, fine arts, and physical education round out the whole-child curriculum at Heilicher.
Rafael (Rafi) Forbush, Physical Education Teacher, is also an entrepreneur and public speaker. He has been an active member of the Twin Cities Jewish Community serving as a coach and mentor for Jewish youth at various organizations for over 12 years. He has worked with the St. Paul Talmud Torah, Twin Cities Jewish Middle School, the Newman School, the St. Paul Jewish Community Center, and, beginning in 2015, Heilicher. Rafael had his Bar Mitzvah at Beth Jacob Congregation and attended the St. Paul Talmud Torah Day School where Hector Sztainer was his teacher and he discovered his love and passion of sports and fitness.
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 8th grade and they are now both in high school. Her art projects most recently have included painting and drawing celebrations of life, murals, ketubot, 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 website at jewishwomensartistcircle.com.
David Shaw, M.A., Innovative Education Coordinator and Music Teacher, 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 member of the HMJDS Educational Leadership Team and is the Professional Development Coordinator for the faculty. David is extensively involved 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 include 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.
Lysa Shimkus, Library Manager, graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2010, where she earned her BS degree in Elementary Education, Foundations. She has her teaching license in Elementary Education (K-6) and Communication Arts & Literature (5-8). She has taught preschool, grades 3 & 4, as well as English in Daegu, South Korea. Prior to teaching, Lysa worked in a library for six years. She can still be found browsing the public library aisles, if not buying more books than she can read. She lives with her husband in Bloomington, but has previously made her home in the Minneapolis suburbs and Fresno, California. In her free time, she enjoys watching documentaries and cooking shows, reading, writing, and crafting.
Hector Sztainer, Athletic Director and Physical Education Teacher, earned a bachelor's degree in K-12 Physical Education at INEF in Buenos Aires, Argentina and his B.Ed. in Community Work and Geography from Beit Berl College in Israel. Hector joined the Heilicher faculty in 2010. He teaches P.E. in both Lower and Middle School, providing the expertise that comes with more than 30 years of work with children in Argentina, Israel, and the Twin Cities, including 17 years at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul Day School and Twin Cities Jewish Middle School. Hector also coordinates the After-School Athletic Program and coaches Soccer, Basketball, Volleyball, and Ultimate Frisbee. When he is not busy playing Soccer or Pickleball, Hector enjoys reading, reading, and reading, solving Sudoku, and traveling (and reading). He lives in St. Louis Park with his wife Dianne and has 4 kids: Lior, Tal, Maya, and Shahar.
Ruth Thom, M.A., Makerspace Educator, earned her B.A. in English from Luther College and her certificate in Gifted, Talented, and Creative Education, and her M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of St. Thomas. Ruth first taught Junior High English, but has been a gifted and talented (GT) teacher/coordinator for most of her teaching career. She served on the board of Minnesota Educators of the Gifted and Talented for eight years and developed GT programs for several schools (most recently, DaVinci Academy of Arts and Science in Ham Lake).
In addition to public school teaching, Ruth was an environmental educator for youth camps and the National Park Service. She is also a part-time technical writer.
Ruth enjoys hiking, biking, reading, gardening, traveling, skiing, numerous water sports, and visiting her children and granddaughter who live on the east coast. As a Navy spouse, Ruth lived on both coasts, but she and her husband now happily reside in a lake home in Clear Lake.
Victoria (Vic) Thor, Art Teacher and Specialist Coordinator, earned her B.A. Magna cum Laude in Art History & 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, Science Specialist Teacher K-4, 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.