Longtime friends Caroline Cadel ’09, Lea Winkler ’09 win Harry S. Levitan Prize

Caroline Cadel ’09 and Lea Winkler ’09Photo/Mike Lovett

Caroline Cadel ’09 (left) and Lea Winkler ’09

They grew up in the same town, attended the same preschool, both graduated from Brandeis with numerous degrees and remain friends to this day.

But Caroline Cadel ’09 and Lea Winkler ’09, who are from Greenlawn, New York and are now both teachers, have yet another thing in common: They are the winners of the Harry S. Levitan Prize for Excellence and Leadership in Education, an award through the education program that recognizes alumni for leadership in the field of education through their teaching, research and volunteer efforts.

Cadel and Winkler received the award on June 6.

“It came as a shock,” Winkler said of winning the award. “But it’s very exciting. I do what I do because I love it, not for the recognition. But this is a big honor.”

Added Cadel: “It’s a great honor. I’ve always had a passion for teaching and I’ve always taken on new roles over the course of my career to develop my practice. I am especially thankful to my mentors here at Brandeis who have pushed me and guided me since I was a student and provided me with invaluable advice and opportunities. It’s really special to be recognized by the university where it all started.”

Winkler graduated cum laude from Brandeis in 2009 with a major in history and minor in education studies and elementary teacher education. She also graduated from the Delet/MAT Program at Brandeis, a graduate teacher preparation program for teachers in Jewish day schools, in 2010 and is now a third grade general studies teacher and STEM coordinator at Epstein Hillel School, formerly Cohen Hillel Academy, a Jewish day school in Marblehead, Mass.

Winkler’s first involvement in teaching came during bat mitzvah preparation when she volunteered at her synagogue’s Hebrew school. Winkler later volunteered at her district elementary school as well.

Today, she credits both experiences as well as her participation in the Brandeis graduate Teacher Leadership Program for helping her realize her true calling.

“I love working with kids and colleagues,” said Winkler, who also won the Covenant Foundation’s 2015 Pomegranate Prize which recognizes emerging leaders in the field of Jewish education. “I see myself staying in the classroom and being involved in schools for the foreseeable future.”

“I think a lot about my role in the classroom,” she added. “I love introducing students to new ideas and seeing how they make new connections and learn how to look at the world in new ways.”

Meanwhile, Cadel showed very early signs of wanting to be a teacher.

“When I was three, or even younger, I remember setting up my dolls in the kitchen and teaching them,” Cadel said. “Then when I was in kindergarten and my brother was two, I remember teaching him.”

“I had an interest in teaching when I was a child, but it was really at Brandeis where I decided that I  wanted to go into it and pursue the undergraduate teacher education program,” she added. “I was interested in education from the sociological aspect as well, in terms of what factors shape a child’s experience in school and the opportunities they have.”

Cadel, who majored in sociology with double-minors in teacher education and education studies, graduated from Brandeis in 2009 Magna cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2011, she earned her M. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. 

Cadel is currently the facilitator of the Brandeis Teacher Induction Program. She also teaches 6th grade social studies at Whitcomb Middle School in Marlborough, Mass where she is a Teacher Leader for her grade-level and one of the chairs of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports initiative. Last year she completed her internship to earn her Curriculum Supervisor license.

“I think if you’re going to teach people to be teachers you need experience as a teacher yourself,” Cadel said. “That’s one of the things I truly valued about my Brandeis experience: You had phenomenal professors and fabulous mentors who were teachers, department heads and principals for a considerable amount of time, and they brought with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

“I am grateful for the guidance and encouragement I received from my Brandeis professors and my Whitcomb mentors for helping me to develop my leadership skills and I hope in the future to be able to impart those skills to a new generation of teachers.”

The Harry S. Levitan Award was established in 2000 by Dr. Joseph Levitan, a local optometrist and generous Brandeis supporter.

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