It's my pleasure to introduce you to Diana Simakhov from Mazel Day School: Academy of the Arts and Sciences in Brooklyn, NY. Diana is the editor of Parent Page, Mazel's monthly newsletter. It's a professionally designed newsletter with great content. The entire newsletter is put together by the dedicated parents of the school. They explain:
"Our mission is to create a read that is close to the hearts of Mazel parents and staff. By listing weekend activities to do with your children, by interviewing parents and teachers, by sharing our recipe ideas and through our monthly cartoon humor and quirky questions, we hope to get you closer to the community your children are so intimately involved with. In addition, our goal is to share the thoughts and advice of acclaimed doctors, psychologists and experts in the parenting field, including our own Chani Okonov, so that we can all benefit from the tips on how to have a healthy and happy family. After all, there is no place like home and Mazel is a home away from home for our children."
1) First off, could you tell me a bit about your own history and how you came to choose Mazel Day School for your children's education?
I immigrated to the United States from Nalchik, Russia in 1999 and attended public middle and high school in New York. I was always into fine arts and after completing a competitive arts program at Murrow High School, I was accepted to attend the Integrated Design Program at Parsons' University (the New School). I graduated from Parsons and worked for major corporations designing identities, print collateral, websites, and packaging for the likes of L'Occitane, Le Parker Meridien, Intelligent Squared US, Wellpoint, TIAA-CREF and many more. After I got married and had my first daughter, Inna, I debated about what kind of education I wanted to provide her with. I was raised with strong values and my parents had instilled in me the importance of strong education and cultural awareness and I wanted the same for my daughter. Luckily, my sister learned about Mazel Day School first and we followed when Inna was ready to start Pre-School. Mazel teachers are very attentive to the students and inspire them to learn and interact with each other. My daughter comes home with a new song every day and is genuinely excited to tell me about her day. I think being at Mazel made her more independent, she now likes to do more things by herself and even enjoys helping at home. When her little brother was born, she took on the role of a big sister without hesitation. At school, Inna also learns about different holidays and Jewish traditions, and loves sharing them with us at home.
(2) Please describe the Parents Newsletter and what the process of creating it was like. How has your community benefited from the newsletter?
The great parenting newsletter was already in existence before I got to took it over. Chani Okonov, principal of the school, and Anna Ashurov, school parent, had started the newsletter. They reached out to our parents looking for topics that the community and parents would like to read about, and that's how it all began. We work constantly to improve our content and keep it fresh and interesting to make sure parents are engaged. Working closely with Chani Okonov, Gennady Favel, board member and editing manager, and our great team of contributing parents, we try to make the paper, fun, interesting and overall a great resource for parents. Our paper includes, parenting tips, articles on Jewish traditions and holidays, activities for kids, crafts, humor, interviews with teachers and parents, recipes and nutrition tips, reading suggestions for both kids and parents, and much more. Check out our latest newsletter here.
(3) What is your favorite part of doing the newsletter?
My favorite part is that it brings parents and the school community together. As parents we get to share ideas and suggestions, events and news. It allows us to participate in our child's education and learn more about the place where our kids spend most of their time.
(4) If another day school was going to create a similar newsletter, what resources are out there to help them? Any online links you can suggest? How would you recommend they get started?
Parents! Parents are our main resource. The most important part is to have someone who is willing and able to start and proactively seek participation and contribution from the parents and to understand what interests them. Our parents are incredibly active - they want to be involved in the education of their children and I am sure others do as well. Find out what type of information parents can contribute - most are professionals or have a certain skill they’d be willing to share. It is also useful to address concerns and questions in this forum - it reaches the greatest audience and is relevant for all.