Dina Freeman, Middle School Principal  Dina.jpg

BIO: I was born in the suburbs of Chicago. My junior year in high school, I studied in Israel. This is where I discovered the power of experiential learning. Everything I had learned in Hebrew School was coming to life. After college in Arizona, I attended graduate school in Chicago while serving as an assistant teacher. This was another time in my life where I was able to learn by doing. It’s through these experiences I began to hone my educational perspective and approach. As a life long learner I am constantly evolving and adding to my educator toolbox. Through experience, collaboration, and exposure to new ideas and approaches, I work to ensure students grow to take ownership of their learning and positively impact the world around them.

I became a teacher because… Principals are the educational leaders at school. I teach teachers and students alike. First and foremost, I see myself as a teacher. There’s nothing better than seeing children grow and develop into conscientious, thoughtful people. Working with children is inspiring and many times quite funny. I am incredibly grateful to love what I do.

My vision for our children is… Children are capable of so much. As future leaders, it’s imperative we teach our children to be givers, not takers; and leave people and places better than how they found them.

I joined Mazel because… It’s a special place where the warmth is palpable. At the same time, our faculty is committed to academic excellence. MDS seeks to educate the whole child and I felt that from the moment I walked through the doors. I knew I needed to be part of this special learning community.

My favorite memory from being a student is… When I was in second grade my teacher created a learning experience that I never forgot. This ongoing unit was called, Cardboard City. Each student was allowed to design a house with windows and doors. Our teacher gave each of us refrigerator boxes and he helped by cutting out doors and windows. My house had heart shaped windows throughout. It also had a secret door inside so I could crawl into my friend’s cardboard home. We did our school work at our desks inside our cardboard houses. We were ‘paid’ for our work, which we used for rent.  We also had a student market where we practiced practical math using our Cardboard City money. This was an impactful lesson; it’s  where I learned my work had value. This was a project based learning experience long before people knew about PBL. Inspired teachers make all the difference and meaningful learning has a long lasting impact.

The most difficult part of teaching middle school is… I’ve taught every grade from kindergarten through 8th grade. Many people ask how I could teach middle schoolers. Admittedly, before I started with this age group, I was fearful because I remembered the challenging time of adolescence. Meanwhile, once I started working with middle schoolers, I realized what amazing people they are. While growing up can be hard, children are resilient. Middle school is a time when children become individuals, and develop their personality, and sense of self.

My best advice to parents is…. Children have the capacity for so much more than they are given credit for. It’s easy to want to fix everything for our kids.  We want to make sure they do not feel the pain we may have encountered in our youth. Parents need to take a step back and allow their children to experience things through their own lense. Kids learn so much by tackling challenges, or resolving social conflict in their own way. Again, this is another form of experiential learning. While there will undoubtedly be discomfort and challenging moments, you can be sure your child will learn more if they practice navigating these situations independently under the watchful supportive eyes of parents and teachers.

If I could teach my students only one thing, it would be… Change is constant and learning to adapt to the ever evolving world is part of life.

If I would not have become a teacher I would have become… It’s hard to conceptualize my life as anything but a teacher. I love art and music and imagine I would have worked in a creative field.

A trick I use in the classroom is… When I was growing up I thought my teachers lived at school. I didn’t know them as people, and I certainly didn’t know about their outside lives. The connection I make with my students is significant. It’s because they know me as a whole person, not just as their teacher. I share personal anecdotes, examples, and my human side. My students have seen me face challenges and overcome adversity. Through humor, perspective and a great deal of love, my students know I care about each of them as individuals.

Outside of school I like to… Travel, spend time with my family and see live music.


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