After leaving Wall Street in my early twenties, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to become a Water Safety Instructor and swim teacher. It was then that I knew—I had to teach.”

Edwin Mizrahi

Vocabulary & Geography
VDA Teacher since 2006

Tell me a little bit about your personal and educational background.
I grew up in Great Neck, a suburb of New York City on Long Island, and like most kids in that area I attended the local public schools. It was a quiet and typical suburban life, with the excitement and cosmopolitan culture of New York City only a thirty minute train ride away. I graduated from Great Neck South High to later attend the State University of New York at Albany.

At first I thought I would go into business, so I took accounting and managerial courses, but I quickly determined that I had little passion for them. By contrast, I was inspired by the history courses I took during my freshman year, and I ended up graduating with a BA in History.

After graduation, I found myself drawn to Wall Street because of a bond trading internship I had had during college. My tour of Wall Street was akin to a ‘residency’ program. I worked in different positions and for different companies over the next several years, from a three-man company to some with seats on the NYSE. Technical trading was fun and would end up becoming a hobby of mine, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living. I would find my career in teaching.

When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
Since the age of eight or nine I had always felt that I would make a good teacher. However, I was reluctant to pursue teaching as a profession because of the stories I had heard about what a teacher’s life was like outside of privileged school districts. Also, once I graduated from college, I spoke to New York City public school teachers and read about the decline of education in the country as a whole. This discouraged me from entering a system that I concluded was mired in antiquated or ineffective teaching methods, with curricula that were inappropriate or incomplete. Teaching would have to wait.

After leaving Wall Street in my early twenties, I decided to take advantage of an opportunity to become a Water Safety Instructor and swim teacher. It was then that I knew—I had to teach.

At about that time, I had the good fortune of meeting Miss VanDamme at a conference, where I learned of her newly opened school. This school was different, and it was one where I could be happy teaching. I kept in touch with her over the years, and eventually timing, skill, and perseverance came together to bring me where I am today.

If you specialize in a particular subject area, why did you choose that specialty?
My specialties of geography and vocabulary at VanDamme Academy came as happenstance, but today they are my areas of expertise and my favorite subjects to teach.

In geography, I have been working for years to develop a curriculum that is both informative and motivating. Although the world hasn’t changed much geographically in the past seven years, my ever-growing knowledge about the countries and the people within them invigorates my teaching.

In vocabulary, I am continually inspired by the connections students make and by their use of new words in their everyday lives.

Do you have any favorite stories about your teaching experience?
Some of my best memories are of students pleading with me to give them the chance to write and illustrate a story with the words that they had learned in a vocabulary lesson. I reward their efforts by finding a way to use these clever stories on their exams.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to spend time with my friends, see movies, swim, and ride my bike.

Is there anything else you think parents or prospective parents should know about you?
I’ve often been told that I’m a bit rough around the edges at first (being a New Yorker), but once you get to know me you’ll wonder how you ever got along without me.