“Ashkelon reminds me of Baltimore,” he says. “It’s a small town and everyone knows one another. Even my students had heard of Baltimore.”
Ben Snyder teaches eighth grade American history at Pine Grove Middle School in Baltimore County. Last summer, he spent three weeks teaching conversational English in Ashkelon, and was proud that by the end of the summer the students could hold a conversation in English.
Like Busch, Snyder also found that the environment is more casual in Israel, but teachers are more focused on creativity and less on test results.
“There is a difference in style,” says Snyder. “Israelis are less strict and more focused on creativity and project-based learning. They are less worried about tests, and more focused on the real skills kids should be learning. When I came back, I began to assign as many opportunities to be creative, including more group projects. I started looking for new ideas.”
Snyder, who had been to Israel previously through BBYO and the March of the Living, began to develop connections with the Israelis he met.
“I got to know the parents, the staff, even the falafel shop owner in Ashkelon who knew my order in advance,” he recalls. “We loved to talk about Baltimore, the Orioles and our connection as partner cities.”