Karen Tal

Karen Tal












Believing In Children's Potential.
Ensuring Their Right to Achieve.

 

Karen Tal, former principal of the internationally recognized Bialik-Rogozin Campus in South Tel Aviv, is co-founder of Education Insights, a non-profit entity empowering dynamic public school principals in Israel's social and geographic periphery to transform their schools and improve students' prospects for success.

During six years at Bialik-Rogozin, located in one of the poorest and most challenged parts of Tel Aviv, Tal created a remarkable framework for education so that the K-12 students in her charge ─ including new immigrants struggling to gain footing in a new country; refugees traumatized by unspeakable horrors; children of foreign workers with little understanding of their place in Israel; children of underprivileged veteran Israelis; and children of Arab Israelis ─ can learn and thrive.

Tal and her team of educators created a compassionate and caring environment for children to learn, regain their self-esteem and achieve astounding results. Her reinvention of Bialik-Rogozin into a safe refuge of learning demonstrates the power of one passionate individual, driven by Jewish values and determined to improve the world.

Education Insights seeks to replicate Tal's successes elsewhere, uplifting other schools with challenging student bodies, putting them on a positive trajectory, and creating national and international models for educational success. The program is currently involved in 14 schools, reaching almost 8,500 students and 927 volunteers.

The program is based on three pillars, including public-private partnerships; empowerment of principals as educational entrepreneurs; and proven pedagogical, methodological and motivational tools and approaches.

Tal arrived at the Bialik-Rogozin school in 2005 and turned a failing school threatened with the possibility of closure into a model school, with graduation rates above the national average.

In just six years the percentage of students passing matriculation exams dramatically rose from 28% to 90%. The percentage of students joining the army immediately following school ─ a key indicator of successful absorption into Israeli society ─ increased as well. These successes are remarkable given the school's diverse and low socio-economic makeup.

Tal created a "school as home" model for children whose parents work long hours at low-paying jobs. The educational approach values the "melting pot," extracting an Israeli identity from its students while encouraging them to keep their individual identity, and to cherish, celebrate, and be proud of their individual cultural heritage.

Tal bolstered her school by creating partnerships with public and private entities, including leading companies like Cisco and Google. The school was the subject of an HBO film, Strangers No More, which won the 2011 Academy Award for best short documentary.

She holds a bachelor's degree in Education and a master's in Public Education and Educational Policy from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a Mandel Jerusalem Fellow of the Mandel Leadership Institute.

Born in Morocco, Tal was an education officer in the IDF Air Force Technical School and has devoted her life to education and its power to transform and uplift individual lives and strengthen society.

Her professional leadership became evident when she served as Director of Shevah Mofet Middle School, and later as Director of its High School ─ a period of professional leadership that lasted from 1995-2002. During that time she took an active part in turning the school into one of the best in Israel in science and computers.

Shevah Mofet provides special tracks for new immigrants, focuses on science and the arts, and cultivates Russian culture while developing a pathway toward integration into Israeli society. During Tal's term there, the Dolphinarium terrorist bombing took the lives of several Shevah Mofet students, a blow to the school that Tal and her team of educators handled with compassion and professionalism.

In addition to being the 2011 recipient of The Charles Bronfman Prize, Tal sits on the board of the Avney Rosha Institute, a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and Yad Hanadiv, which recognizes and convenes outstanding school principal leaders. She founded an umbrella advocacy forum for the benefit of foreign workers and refugees to establish their legal status in Israel, and organized summer seminars for Israeli youth. Tal is a popular speaker about education, children, human rights and inclusiveness.