Defying gravity with MollyBeth Rushfield

MollyBeth Rushfield
MollyBeth Rushfield (Photo by David Stuck)

MollyBeth Rushfield says that when she was a kid, she wanted to be anything but a teacher when she grew up.

She was adamant about getting a job “that had no homework.”

In high school, though, she took a class that involved her assisting in a kindergarten classroom.

“Next thing you knew, I was in love with being a teacher.”

That passion never went away. Rushfield, 53, is a Judaic studies teacher at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. She is also director of Junior Shoresh at Camp Shoresh in Adamstown, Md., where she’s worked for 16 years.

“I just really love making a difference in kids’ lives, and letting them see what they can accomplish,” says Rushfield, who lives in Silver Spring and is a Congregation Har Shalom member. “And helping them grow up into the best version of themselves that they can be.”

Rushfield says it’s common for her to teach a child several years in a row. This gives her the opportunity to turn an uninterested student into one who loves Judaic studies.

Similarly, at Camp Shoresh she watches the passage of time.

“Some of my original Junior Shoresh kids, that I remember when they were 3 and 4 years old, are now grown up kids and married,” Rushfield says. “I still remember running after them and finding their socks, and helping them learn how to blow bubbles in the pool.”

Rushfield’s responsibilities at Shoresh include making schedules and plans for the day, ordering supplies and materials, leading prayers, driving children to the ropes course, teaching swim lessons and calling parents when necessary. She also ensures everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing and “help kids who get boo boos.”

“Every day there’s a new memory, especially in the past two years with all the changes that everybody has gone through,” says Rushfield. “The kids are always surprising me with what they can do, and how open they are to change.”

Rushfield is also involved in community theater. Several years ago, she won a Washington Area Theatre Community Honors award for her performance as Snoopy in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

“It was very intense, especially because I didn’t know any of the Christmas carols,” she says.

Acting is an effective way to de-stress from the other facets of her life, she says.

“Going to rehearsal is kind of my therapy. When life gets difficult at home, with all the different things going on, when I go to theater I get to hang out with a whole different group of people who are very supportive of everything we do, and we’re working toward a common goal together. And then, the applause.”

Rushfield grew up in Olney. Her father was a physicist for the Navy; her mother worked as a teacher. She attended Sherwood High School and B’nai Shalom of Olney.

At the University of Maryland, she received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. A bachelor’s in Hebrew letters and a master’s in Jewish education followed from what is today American Jewish University.
Whether at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School or Shoresh, Rushfield is
usually a step or two ahead of the kids.

But not always. She tells about the time when she was reading a story to her campers and one of the 4-year-olds chirped in, “Don’t quit your day job.”

“And I said, ‘Well, this is my day job, sweet pea.’” Rushfield said. “And she said, ‘Oh, well then don’t quit your night job.’”

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