November 4, 2016

Gone, But Never Forgotten: Remembering and Celebrating Susan Bakerman and Joshua Allen

Sarah Cehelyk ‘18

Photo courtesy Josh Allen family. NJ Jewish News.

I never thought I would find joy in Spanish class.
I went into my freshman year with this mentality and had no interest in trying to be more open. The first day of Spanish class freshman year, I walked into room 309 and saw Señora Bakerman’s smiling face.
Throughout our short 54 minutes, she cracked jokes, made sassy remarks and laid out the basic outline for the material we were going to cover. She managed to present the information in an entertaining way that interested me more than I thought was possible. I can happily admit that I walked out of class with a gleaming smile upon my face.
As the year progressed, an immense love for the Spanish language and culture grew inside of me. Through her most admirable attributes, Señora Bakerman opened up my eyes to a world that I would have otherwise never experienced, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Prior to meeting Mr. Allen in the seventh grade, I never thought I would be good at mathematics. I had just switched from public school where I felt extremely uncertain of myself and could not find the mental strength to concentrate.
Mr. Allen created a classroom environment where I felt safe to guess and be uncertain of myself. I can remember him saying so vividly in my mind that, “If you never try, the possibility of success does not exist.” From this point forward, I gained the confidence to take risks and accepted the fact that I was not always going to be “right.”
Although I struggled in math for all of middle school, I slowly became more confident and learned to ask questions and voice my concerns openly. Much of this growth is due to Mr. Allen and the confidence that he was somehow able to instill in me.
It's extremely difficult to put into words how much the loss of our beloved teachers has affected the Golda Och Academy community. Both cared so deeply about the students and the GOA community and showed this through their commitment to many school-run programs.
Señora Bakerman showed her devotion to our school by serving as the advisor for the Student Council as well as overseeing the lunch program. She was always more than willing to assist our school in any way possible and constantly made herself readily available for any student who needed support, whether it was class-related or personal.
“She would check in on me after class just to see how I was doing with my stress levels and would reassure me of my abilities when I looked concerned about an assignment,”  Sam Rubenstein  of the class of 2013 said. “Of course, she did it all with her sharp wit, dry humor and that thick New York accent.”
Señora Bakerman lived in East Brunswick, N.J. and happily commuted an hour each way. Being with her students and interacting with our school community made the commute worth it.
Mr. Allen showed his commitment to GOA by participating in a plethora of school activities. From school day trips, to Na’ale, to Washington D.C trips, Mr. Allen could always be found interacting with the students.
He made himself easily accessible for students by leaving eight of the 10 lunch periods in a block free for clinics. If ever a student had confusion on a minor detail or large concept, Mr. Allen was willing to support the student with open arms, ears and, most importantly, an open heart.
Junior Etai Barash had the privilege of having Mr. Allen as his math teacher for seventh and eighth grade.
“He taught me so much in the classroom,” Barash said, “and has helped me grow as a student. For that I am extremely thankful.”
Although two of our beloved faculty members are no longer with us, we will remain strong as a community as we always do. May their memory be made for a blessing. Thank you to Senora Bakerman and Mr. Allen for the lasting impact that they have had on our school.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

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