Malkie Hametz didn’t initially plan to get into educational administration, but that’s where she finds herself now, as the Dean of Students for the Upper School at Berman Hebrew Academy. Hametz realized that working with teens was important to her and something she loved, and in 2021, she ended up finding a perfect role at Berman to fulfill that passion, where she’s thrived ever since.
Can you tell me what your position as Dean of Students entails?
It’s really to oversee the students’ holistic life on our campus. I work very closely with the Upper School team on developing a vision for the student experience and student culture and for helping to foster an atmosphere that’s conducive to learning. I work very closely with our Upper School faculty and other administrators and obviously with the students to think about and implement a student-centered approach toward student support in a way that will hopefully help to strengthen the school culture and community.
What are you currently working toward providing for students?
What we’re working to provide for students are experiential learning opportunities that are going to align with the school’s mission and priorities. And that ultimately will help to build a strong and positive relationship between students and faculty and the entire school. I work with the Student Council and other student council leaders to support them and to help address concerns or thoughts or ideas that they might have. I work with the Educational Support Services Coordinator and the Guidance Counselor to make sure that we’re proactively managing and are on top of any student issues. So, if we see that a student is struggling in a certain regard, we want to try to address it as early as possible so that it doesn’t become a larger issue down the line. Something I mentioned before was student culture. And to me what that means is that I help to develop and manage either different practices or policies or protocols that will help to support student development, students’ learning and students’ health and student safety.
How did you get into the education sphere and academic administration?
To be honest, it was never really my goal to get into educational administration. I was very active in National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY) when I was in college, and I was an NCSY advisor. Working with teens has always been something that’s important to me. And then my year after I graduated from college, I worked for Yeshiva University for a year. And then my husband and I realized that we really wanted to leave the New York area for a little bit of experience, something different, something new. So, we moved to Los Angeles for seven years and I started teaching formally there. And then when we were looking to come back to the East Coast, my husband actually called a former camp counselor of his who we thought was at a school in Philadelphia and it turns out he was actually at Berman, and he recruited us to interview at Berman and the rest is kind of history.
What is one thing that you enjoy about being in an administrative position?
I enjoy having the opportunity to connect with and interact with our students every single day. I try to view my job as being a student advocate. I want students to know and feel comfortable that they can always come and speak with me to share concerns or things that are on their mind or discuss something that might be going on in regard to a friend or a teacher or a class. Something I really enjoy is being able to help the students navigate the tumultuous high school years and having that opportunity, it gives me a lot of strength, and it gives me energy. And I try to go into every conversation that I have with the students so that they know that I’m coming to the conversation from a place of empathy and warmth and care, and not from a place of wanting to get them in trouble or wanting to see them fail. We’re coming from a place of student support and wanting to help them grow into the best versions of themselves that they can be.
Would you be able to tell me some things you like to do outside of work?
I used to be really into running and when I was in college, I was on my college’s cross-country team and I ran one full marathon and a couple of half marathons. That’s something that I really enjoyed doing in my free time. I’ve always been very active and really enjoy exercising and finding outlets for my energy. I took up boxing a couple years ago. I enjoy spending time with my friends, with my family and with my kids, my husband and my dog.
Why is it important for you to work with Jewish students?
I think we all know that our Jewish teenagers and our Jewish students are the future of the Jewish people. I feel like it’s an incredible responsibility to help students grow into upstanding members of their communities and our communities that we hope to see, and that we know that they will grow into. And like I said, the thing that I really enjoy is helping a student to overcome something that they’re struggling with, or to better navigate a situation than they might have done the year before. And I think that it’s a real priority for us as Jewish educators to focus on how we can help to shape and cultivate our students’ minds and hearts to help them grow into the kinds of Jewish community leaders that we know that they can be.
How does your Jewish identity impact you on a day-to-day basis?
My Jewish identity definitely impacts me on a on a daily basis. I would say that I try my best to live my life according to Torah values, and when I don’t know what to do in a situation or when I don’t know who to turn to, I know that I can always turn to God and I know that I can always turn to the Torah and to our Jewish sages and teachers to hopefully help guide me and that can help me figure out how to best move forward. I would say that my Jewish identity and especially being connected to Israel right now is exceptionally important.