Religious School Faculty

Religious School Faculty

Marjie Brockman

I am very excited to be back at TST as the Hineini Inclusion Coordinator. I look forward to working with the staff to ensure that all children feel safe, included and able to build on their strengths for a successful Hineini experience. When I am not at the temple, I am a Special Educator in The Framingham Public Schools, where I have just started my 28th year. I am the proud mother of two daughters. My older daughter is working in Needham Public schools. My younger daughter is a junior at Indiana University. That leaves my husband Rob and I as “empty nesters.” Well, almost, we have a 9-year-old dog Bree, who gives us tons of love.

Tikva Eigen

I am originally from Israel and have been teaching students about Judaism and Hebrew reading for the past 40 years. I love learning and sharing what I know with students. I love teaching about Israel, and I hope that learning with me inspires students to want to see it for themselves. I also love teaching about Hebrew reading, and helping students to access the prayers they hear when attending services. What I love about sharing Jewish learning… is teaching students about inspiring sentences from the Torah and the wisdom of Jewish learning. The Talmud has a lot of wisdom to share with us, and I love passing that on to my students. My goals in sharing Judaism with children… is for students to love being Jewish and feel a deep sense of community here. What I believe about children… is that if they are taught with love they will end up learning more deeply. When I am not at Shir Tikva I love to read, take walks in nature, and I teach students all over the metro Boston area!

Heidi Estrada

My name is Heidi and I’m very excited to be teaching again at TST. I taught Kindergarten at a Boston area Jewish day school for many years and after taking some time off,  I’ve loved being back in the beautiful world of teaching and sharing Judaism with young children.  I believe that learning should be joyful and authentic. I look forward to building a community of learners and fostering a love of Judaism with your children. I live in Weston and enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, baking, art, musical theater, and figure skating.

Carrie Fuchs

Hi, My name is Carrie Fuchs. I work for the Sudbury Valley Jewish Special Education Initiative and have been at Shir Tikva for 4 years helping students with their Hebrew reading. I work primarily with 4th graders. I have an MBA and a Masters of Special Education, working for Jewish organizations and day schools over the last 15 years. I find that students like breaking down words into their constituent parts (letters and vowels) and putting them together. It’s like working on a puzzle.  Once they have some facility with this, they feel proud when they can read multiple words, sentences, prayers and are abundantly curious as to the meaning of them. Additionally, It’s very cool for them to read from right to left. Reading and Hearing Hebrew connects them to the ancient language of their people, connects them to the liturgy and prepares them for the milestone of B. Mitzvah.

Sam Gessman

Hello! My name is Sam Gessman and I will be teaching Jewish Journey this coming school year! I am originally from Rhode Island but I currently live in Waltham as I begin my junior year at Brandeis. I attended religious school all the way through confirmation and was a madrich at my temple for the rest of high school. I was a camp counselor for URJ Eisner Camp as well as a regional board member for NFTY-NE, so, my experience with Jewish education has been a long one! Though I have never taught a class before, I’m hoping to study Jewish education so I’m pretty excited to be spending this year with the fourth grade! My hope is to create a warm, inviting classroom that relieves the stress normally associated with school. I ask only for attendance when possible and a willingness to participate! My goal for teaching this year is to strengthen the Jewish identity within each student so that they may have a better grasp of their own connections to Judaism going forward. When I am not at Shir Tikva, I can be found on the Ultimate Frisbee field, playing board games, or nestled in the library attempting to stay on top of my classwork!

Emily Greenspan

I am really looking forward to teaching 3rd grade Hebrew this fall! I am currently a senior at Brandeis University, majoring in Psychology and Public Health, and originally from Philadelphia. I went to Jewish Day School from K-12 and have very strong Jewish roots, so I am excited to be able to share that with my students. I really enjoy being outside, reading or being with friends and family. This is my fourth year at Temple Shir Tikvah and I’m looking forward to a new year with you all! My goal for this year is to create a friendly and welcoming environment for my students to learn Hebrew. I want the 3rd graders to have a positive experience with Hebrew and to be excited to enter my classroom and learn! My hope is also to foster a greater sense of community in my classroom, and have all of my students feel comfortable.

Joni Gunner

“A child is a gift from God.” My goal is to see your child’s potential, and help them have a positive experience that they will carry with them, beyond this year. I’m so excited to start my second year with you all. In addition to teaching, my skill set includes a SPED, Graphic Design, and an Office Management background. I have a creative approach to working with children, patience and compassion. I’m from Massachusetts, lived in Florida, and have one child, Katie. I’m the youngest of four and had a sister with special needs. Having had a sibling with special needs, allowed me to develop a sensitive soul. My loves are my grandchildren, Tyler and Molly. Spending any time with them, does my heart good! My daughter, Katie, also worked in Special Education.  My interests include anything creative, cooking, and an appreciation for nature. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and concerns. I will keep you informed, on your child’s progress. We are a team, thank you for the privilege of working with your child.

Allie Henke

Allie is a Cantorial and Masters of Jewish Education student at Hebrew College. She is a proud Birmingham, AL native who grew up song-leading in NFTY-SAR, storytelling, and teaching in a tight-knit Jewish community. Allie studied music throughout high-school, but loved teaching in the religious school at her reform temple and decided to pursue her degree in Elementary and Special Education. Allie went on to work for organizations and synagogues within the Greater Cincinnati Jewish community as an Elementary and Early Childhood Inclusion Specialist, Song-leader, Music Educator, and Cantorial Soloist. She also obtained her executive certification in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. Allie’s most recent professional role as a Resident Life Coordinator for the Jewish Retirement Community in Cincinnati enabled her to merge her passions for multi-generational education, programming, storytelling, and music together with her role as a religious school teacher and music educator. Allie has been teaching for over a decade and loves it! Though she is new to teaching on zoom, she is looking forward to providing a safe and inclusive, educational, open, and supportive classroom environment for all families. Allie and her spouse live with their two cats and an array of musical instruments in West Roxbury. Allie is very excited to begin this year of teaching second grade at Temple Shir Tikva! She can be reached via email at or via text message at 205-790-6377.

Kalianni Neal-Desatnik

I graduated from Brandeis University in 2020 and currently work in higher education admissions. Jewish learning was a huge part of my childhood ranging from Jewish camp, to religious school, NFTY events, and even Jewish college internships. I am looking forward to my second year with the Shir Tikva community and hoping to continue to make Judaism as fun, immersive, and reflective as so many did for me. My goal is for students to come out with a better sense of what their Jewish identity means to them, how it is active every day not just when they’re at temple or camp. I also strive to make learning fun and individualized; no two people are the same and I want every student to feel successful in my classroom. In my free time, I can be found exploring the New England area, and spending time with friends.

Becca Leibowitz

A New York native, Becca Leibowitz graduated from Tufts University in 2017 with a degree in Child Study and Human Development. She then spent two years working as a toddler and preschool teacher at Lemberg Children’s Center at Brandeis University. Now, she works full-time coordinating early childhood programming for the Somerville Public Schools. She is looking forward to her second year at TST, having moved up with her kindergarteners to 1st grade! Becca hopes to encourage children’s Jewish learning using a child-directed, hands-on approach that creates meaningful community with and for our youngest kids. As a former madricha herself, Becca also looks forward to supporting madrichim in their work with children in the classroom. Outside of work, Becca enjoys photography, tennis, and exploring the beautiful towns of New England. Parents can reach me by email () or phone (914-420-8534).

Rhonda Magier-Cohen

I’m looking forward to teaching Grades 6 and 7 again this year.  I have been a B’nai Mitzvah tutor at TST with Cantor Hollis since 2001. Although I taught Grades 3, 4 and 5 earlier in my 25-year career teaching religious school, I’m truly inspired by our 12 and 13 year olds. I live in Framingham with my wonderful husband and our dog Bella. Our son is in his second year of medical school in Illinois and our daughter is in a PhD program in Ohio. My kids have not had an easy road on their journey to adulthood which has only made me more compassionate and aware of different learning styles and different family dynamics. Parents are welcome to text me at 508-789-7717.

Sam Newman

Sam is an undergraduate student at Brandeis University. Having grown up in the youth movement Habonim Dror and having worked as an informal educator in Israel over the last year, he is endlessly excited to bring the best from his movement’s pedagogy to the sixth-graders at Shir Tikva. Creating long lasting relationships of mentorship has always been a passion Sam’s pursued in every part of his life, whether with peers in school or with his chanchim from Habonim Dror camps.

Jacob Paikoff

Jacob is an engineer and entrepreneur who loves everything STEM and is passionate about creating learning environments that foster exploration and discovery and making things explode (in a safe, controlled way, of course). He previously was a counselor and the Robotics Instructor at the URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy for four summers, and now teaches STEM programs throughout the Boston area. Jacob has also volunteered or many years with FIRST Robotics in Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, and now here in Boston. He received his Bachelors’ in Mechanical Engineering from North Carolina State University, and his Masters’ in Technical Entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida.

Ethan Swartz

I am a Junior at Brandeis University studying Public Health and Economics while minoring in Politics originally from Baltimore. I was always active in expanding my Jewish leadership and engagement through opportunities in religious school, USY events, Jewish Sleep-away camp, and Jewish leadership programs. Last summer I was a camp counselor at Ramah in the Rockies (an outdoor adventure jewish sleep-away camp). This will be my second year at Shir Tikvah teaching 5th grade and I am excited to be back engaging jewish youth. I want my students to leave my class understanding their personal connection to Judaism while beginning to understand how to apply Jewish values in their daily lives. I make an effort to keep each class different and engaging so that our religious school experience together is fun while also informative. Outside the classroom I am probably playing soccer, relaxing with friends, or in the outdoors.

Lexi Weakley

I am so excited to be back for my second year as the religious school songleader! As a 3rd year student at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, I’m studying Songwriting and Musical Theater Writing. I am originally from Los Angeles, CA where I grew up songleading and leading services at my home synagogue, Temple Judea in Tarzana, CA. At age 12, I fell in love with songleading and writing Jewish music, and haven’t stopped since.  I have become very involved in the contemporary Jewish music scene with Jewish Rock Radio over the past few years, as I was a finalist in Season 1 of Jewish Rock Radio’s Jewish Star National Talent Search and have been featured with multiple of my original songs on the Emerging Artist Showcase on Jewish Rock Radio with Joe Buchanan. This year, I released 3 of my original Jewish songs on all streaming platforms and became an official featured artist with Jewish Rock Radio. Additionally, this summer I became the head songleader at Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu, CA, which took place online. I found so many fun and interactive ways to connect with my students through music and I can’t wait to connect with all of you!