Strelitz International Academy Fifth Graders Give Back

Fifth-grade student Yael Haas presents her research on Tzedakah.

By Rashi Brashevitzky

The intersection of learning and action is a beautiful place.

Research, learning, and action were all displayed at SIA’s Fifth Grade Exhibition on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. As an IB® World School, the fifth graders document their learning, research, and action, presenting it at the Primary Years Programme Exhibition.

Using Chumash (Torah text study) and science as a springboard, the fifth graders jumped into the study of Tzedakah (charity) and food insecurity—forming inquiries into how to help hungry people in Hampton Roads.

The fifth graders began their journey by conversing with a community member who grew up food insecure. After hearing about this person’s experience, the students met with another community expert who discussed the different ways they could demonstrate the teachings of Tzedakah. From there, the students jumped into action.

Putting their science lessons to good use, the fifth graders visited the garden at the Fred Heutte Center in Norfolk. They learned about the garden and how they grow thousands of pounds of produce, which they donate to the Food Bank of Southeastern Virginia. The class helped the master gardeners with weeding and planting. Students harvested some of the produce to take back to school to prepare Thanksgiving dishes for a Jewish Family Services family.

Students continued their study of Tzedakah and food insecurity, looking for more ways to help the local community. When studying the different food blessings, they donated a chopped salad for the ForKids in South Norfolk organization. Also, the fifth graders delivered the salads and toured the ForKids family shelter. After learning about the great need to feed families and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, they felt inspired to do even more!

The fifth graders created a slideshow about food deserts, food insecurity, and ForKids, and presented it to students in Early Years 4 to fourth grade. The SIA community then donated fresh fruits and vegetables to the Produce Drive. ForKids was very grateful when the fifth graders dropped off more than 650 pieces of fresh produce!

Being on a shared campus with Jewish Family Services, the fifth graders were eager to help while close to home. They met with Debbie Mayer and Jody Laibstain and learned about the food pantry program, offering their help.

The fifth graders have visited the food pantry numerous times throughout the school year to help sort through donations and stock shelves, as well as to help food pantry customers shop. They also noted which items were running low and organized a food and supply drive to encourage classes to each bring a different type of food or supply. The food drive buckets were filled to the top more than once! The fifth-grade class also took donor funds given to JFS and shopped for two cartfuls of food, paper goods, and hygiene products.

As the end of the school year neared, these students wished to help out one more time. They held a lemonade and bake sale, raising over $500 in just one day! The money raised was used to purchase bread, peanut butter, jelly, bananas, and potato chips for needy people.

At the Fifth Grade Exhibition, the students presented posters on their research and learning and shared their journey with Primary Years students, parents, and visitors. After visiting the different presentations, participants were invited to help make lunches for people in need. Each class had a different job in the process. The result? One hundred lunches were made and donated to Ghent Area Ministry for the many people they serve.

Fifth-grade student Yael Haas presents her research on Tzedakah.

Fifth-grade student Yael Haas presents her research on Tzedakah.
Fifth grade student Adielle Uduaghan with ForKids chef Teresa Licato.

Fifth grade student Adielle Uduaghan with ForKids chef Teresa Licato.
First grade students Gianna Eaglin and Elijah Perry participate in making bagged lunches for Ghent Area Ministry.

First grade students Gianna Eaglin and Elijah Perry participate in making bagged lunches for Ghent Area Ministry.

Indeed, the intersection of learning and action is a beautiful place.

The Strelitz International Academy is the community’s Jewish Day School and International Baccalaureate® World School for infants through grade 5. For more information, contact Ally St. Pierre, Admissions and Marketing Manager, at 757-424-4327, ext. 4188, or

SIA Launches new Transitional Kindergarten Program

SIA Launches new Transitional Kindergarten Program

The Strelitz International Academy is excited to launch a new Transitional Kindergarten Program for eligible new and re enrolling students.  The SIA TK program is designed for students old enough for kindergarten but who need an extra year to develop their kindergarten readiness skills.  Transitional Kindergarten is a program that bridges the gap between preschool and Kindergarten, providing an extra year to acquire kindergarten academic, social and emotional readiness for students who need it.

In order to start Kindergarten in Virginia, a student must turn 5 by September 30 of their kindergarten year.  That means that some students start kindergarten before their fifth birthday while others on the older end of the group will turn six years old as early as October 1.  As a result of being so young, some younger students with summer birthdays find themselves struggling to keep up with their peers.  In many cases, an extra year to grow and mature has long-term positive consequences on a child’s social, emotional and academic success.

The TK program is not for all younger children of kindergarten age.  A child’s kindergarten readiness is determined through teacher evaluation and parent observation of both academic and social skills.  Children who may be ready for kindergarten academically but may need time to work on impulse control, social skills and fine motor control may benefit.  Many studies have shown that students who are ahead of their peers in both academic and social and emotional skills have long-term positive impacts on a child’s social, emotional and academic success.  In TK, students will have the opportunity to hone this confidence into leadership skills and advanced academics in their later elementary school years and beyond.  Transitional Kindergarten gives these students the advantage that their older kindergarten peers have as a resultof their age. SIA’s transitional kindergarten program is designed to provide parents with a developmentally appropriate, research-based program which grants children that gift.

Parents are sometimes hesitant to hold their child back due to social stigmas from their own school experience; however, there are many long term benefits of holding younger children back a year.  Instead of struggling to keep up as  the youngest student in the class, when completing the transitional kindergarten program, these students will have the opportunity to take the lead in kindergarten the following year.  Over the years, we have had parents decide to hold their children back a year in the EY4 class or Kindergarten in order to give their child the gift of a year.  The transitional kindergarten class will give these students the advantages of both the extra play of EY4 and the academic skills of Kindergarten.  Transitional Kindergarten students will have a similar curriculum to kindergarten, however, they will have more time to work on the skills they need within the IB World School Program. The class will be a full day from 8am until 3:30pm with the option to include fullcare.  Students will work on reading, writing and math with more time to play.  In addition, students will participate in the same specialty and enrichment classes as the SIA Kindergarten Program including PE, Art, Music, Hebrew, Violin with the addition of Swimming.

For more information on Transitional Kindergarten at the Strelitz International Academy, please contact Carin Simon, Admissions Director, 757.424.4327

The Strelitz International Academy is now enrolling for the 2023-2024 school year for all grades.

A New Strategic Plan for a New School Year

New Strategic Plan for a New School Year

A New Strategic Plan for a New School Year

The 2022-2023 school year has started at Strelitz International Academy (SIA), and to kick off the year, we are introducing a new five-year Strategic Plan. This plan aims to ensure that SIA establishes itself in the local community and the community, promoting a social and global consciousness that encompasses a profound respect for all humanity. Learn more about our new Strategic Plan and how we are achieving these goals. 

The 2022-2027 Strategic Plan

The new school year has already started, and work on the five-year strategic plan has begun. To achieve this plan, we want to invite every parent, community member, and friend of the school to join us as we work together to accomplish our vision. As we look to the future, we are excited to implement changes for growth. Over the next five years, we aim to:

  • Invest in SIA by creating a Culture of Philanthropy and Maximizing our Strong Financial Position
  • Position SIA as the leader of the International Baccalaureate® Primary Years World Schools in Hampton Roads.
  • RE-Imagine the SIA campus spaces to inspire creativity and learning.
  • Identify and establish reciprocal and sustainable partnerships.

How We Are Achieving These Goals

Fulfilling this Strategic Plan will take work and dedication on behalf of the SIA Faculty, Parents, Students, Staff, Trustees, Campus, JFS, and Federation. However, we are optimistic we can achieve these goals together, as work has already begun.  

Investing in SIA

Investing in SIA

SIA is working to become a leader of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years World Schools in Hampton Roads and is grateful for the support from the Simon Family Foundation, TJF, and the community, which has helped SIA become the only IB World School for the Primary Years in our area.

Positioning Ourselves as a Leader

As the only IB World School for the Primary Years in the Hampton Roads area, the International Baccalaureate World School Program continues to be a globally-minded and progressive way of teaching and learning that has drawn many new families to the program. This year’s enrollment boasts new students in every age group and grade—expanding to include waitlists for many classes. SIA is already scheduling tours and accepting applications for the 2023-2024 school year as the buzz of the IB  Program and SIA’s excellent reputation spreads through the community. Parents and students love the hands-on, project-based learning that the IB World School offers. With the enrollment growth over the last few years, SIA is expanding.  

In addition, this past summer, Elyssa Brinn, SIA’s Early Years Director was approved to give a presentation at the IBⓇ World School International Conference in San Diego, California.  Elyssa’s presentation on “Provocations’, ‘an IB Term used to describe a “hook” when introducing a unit of inquiry to inspire curiosity, wowed the IB Conference committee so much that they asked her to become a regular presenter!  We are so proud of Morah Elyssa and her work to help SIA become a front-runner in the IB World!

Re-Imagining SIA

Over the summer, a new Learning Lab in the Primary Years wing was added. The Learning Lab includes a space for the learning specialists to meet with students and includes opportunities for added student academic support and enrichment.  In addition, the Early Years Cooking Center got a facelift this summer thanks to a generous community impact grant from the Tidewater Jewish Foundation (TJF).

The cooking center has been a hub of the preschool with student cooking and baking opportunities and daily snack storage. This renovation will also give students an enhanced “farm to table” experience using the SIA garden harvest to create and extend learning opportunities.  New classrooms were added to the Early Years space and an activity room for the Early Years students to engage in gross motor development. 

Even the SIA school lobby has a fresh new look!  Students and visitors to the school are greeted with a colorful tiger wall mural, SIA’s school mascot.  The tiger was designed last year by SIA’s 2022 graduating class and is the inspiration behind the 2022-2023 wall calendar and SIA’s 2022-2027 five-year strategic plan.

Establishing Partnerships

Prior to the start of school, SIA’s professional development week for teachers included several IB Global Leaders, including Trevor Mackenzie, author of Dive into Inquiry; Inquiry Mindset Elementary Edition; and Inquiry Mindset Assessment Edition. Inquiry Educator Jessica Vance also presented to the SIA Faculty.  With a professional teaching and leadership background in both private and public international schools as an IB PYP Educator and PYP Coordinator, Jessica Vance, brought a unique perspective to her role as Enrichment and Environment Coordinator. 

Similarly, SIA’s campaign theme for this year is G2G, from Generation to Generation, highlighting the bridge from past to present and future. SIA is proud of the ways the school continues to honor Jewish traditions and heritage while creating a sustainable and innovative plan for the future.

SIA Going Forth, Embracing Innovation, and Inspiring Global Action

As we look to the future, we are excited to implement changes for growth. We thank each and every person for helping Strelitz International Academy become the community pillar it is today, and we hope that through this Strategic Plan, we can continue for years to come. 

Learn more about the IB Primary Years Program at Strelitz International Academy.


Celebrating Jewish Holidays at Private School

Celebrating Jewish Holidays at SIA

One of the greatest things about being a Jewish Day School, a member of the Virginia Association of Independent Schools, as well as an International Baccalaureate (IB®) Primary Years Programme (PYP) candidate school servicing Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk is that we get to have a lot of fun while we learn. This includes learning about the history of the Jewish religion and culture including the customs and traditions we follow.

We saw an example of that recently when we celebrated Purim at school. Our Early Years Program students learned about and fulfilled the four mitzvot of Purim including:
–    Hearing the Megillah: Our EY students not only had an opportunity to hear the Megillah, they then set out to help make a copy of it. Each class from the toddlers to EY4 created a panel that depicted the story of Queen Esther, the heroine of the tale, when the panels were brought together. The toddlers through EY3 students got to hear the Megillah read in person by Morah Elyssa, while the EY4 classes were able to stream the reading in real time through the miracle of technology.
–    Mishloach Manot: The second mitzvah of Purim requires us to give gifts of at least two different kinds of food to others. Each class fulfilled this mitzvah by creating gift baskets filled with Purim treats that were then given to our office staff and our school security guards, Ramon and Mark.
–    Give Tzedakah: While most of our Purim celebration was about having fun while learning, the third mitzvah is teaching the importance of giving tzedakah. This is a Hebrew word meaning “righteousness,” but is commonly used to signify giving charity. This is viewed as a moral and ethical practice, which is not only good for the recipient(s), it’s an important part of building good moral character and developing good citizens of the world.
–   Have a Festive Time: You don’t need to ask Early Years students twice to have a good time, so this was the easiest mitzvah to fulfill. Our students participated in costume parades, played games, rocked out at a dance party, and enjoyed lots of delicious treats including popsicles, cotton candy, and hamantaschen, the famous cookie that is named for Haman’s ears. These cookies commemorate Esther’s victory over Haman and his plot to destroy the Jewish people.

Many special thanks for the teachers who helped make this celebration memorable and joyful for all of our students. We all had an amazing time celebrating Purim and the coming of Shabbat.

Looking for a Jewish Day school serving Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk? Come visit Strelitz International Academy and let us tell you more about our International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). The mission of the IB program is to build a better world through education. Our mission is to enrich the life of the whole child, to develop compassionate, lifelong learners, and to promote a social and global consciousness that encompasses a profound respect for all humanity. Please join us!

Art Show at the Norfolk International Airport

Child with his parent explore the Art Show Gallery at the Norfolk International Airport

When it comes to truly shaping young minds, a report by Americans for the Arts found that young people who regularly participate in the arts are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, participate in math and science fairs, or win an award for writing poems or essays.

As one of the best private schools near Norfolk, Strelitz International Academy believes that exposing students to the arts is crucial for creating well-rounded learners, and well-prepared leaders. That’s why we’re proud to offer a curriculum that includes inquiry-based education focusing on both scholastic studies and the arts.

By allowing our students to take control of their education, with teachers acting as facilitators and collaborators, they can discover the pursuits that they are most interested in and follow them with passion. In addition, the arts help students develop creative problem-solving acumen by improving motor, language, social, decision-making, risk-taking, and creative skills. Through art, students learn about perspective, balance, color, and layout, all of which translate into skills that are essential in creating and staging presentations. Students at the Strelitz International Academy experience a strong foundation in fine arts, music and strings. Many SIA graduates choose their middle school programs based on the fine arts electives and programs that are offered.

That said, we’re proud to announce that our students were recently asked to participate and are currently being featured in an exhibit at the Norfolk International Airport (ORF). The exhibit is part of an effort by Norfolk International Airport to showcase the efforts of students all across Coastal Virginia schools. Artwork from students at Strelitz International Academy will be on display throughout the month of February 2021.

If you are interested in viewing the exhibit, you don’t need a ticket for a flight to check it out. It is located in the upstairs main waiting area on the left side of the food court. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Go take a peek. We know you’ll be proud, too!

Celebrating Chanukah at the Strelitz International Academy


How many ways can you celebrate Chanukah? At the Strelitz International Academy, the ways are endless and include a combination of learning the story and rituals, celebrating traditions, doing mitzvot to help others and of course having fun!

The SIA students started preparing weeks ago decorating the hallways, participating in the annual Chanukah Gift Drive run by Jewish Family Service and making cards for patients of the Gordon Family Hospice. Not to mention ordering their Chanukah attire to wear at school all week long!

Students learned and reviewed the story of Chanukah through stories, songs and art. Our littlest learners integrated math skills into their Chanukah learning by focusing on counting 8 candles and learning to name the numbers in Hebrew. Students explored the miraculous story of Chanukah, discussing the brave Maccabees, making Dreidels, singing the Menorah blessings and Chanukah songs, and creating their own menorahs to use during Chanukah.

Chanukah learning by focusing on counting 8 candles

But Chanukah learning is more than menorahs, dreidels and latkes! As an IB® PYP school, important global and unifying concepts were covered relating to Chanukah. On Chanukah we celebrate the miracle of the oil of the Menorah that lasted for 8 days and we celebrate the right for all to have religious freedom. From the four year old classes who considered the diversity of our world by learning how other cultures celebrate the holiday season. To the fifth graders who are studying other historical revolutions that have taken place throughout the world. At SIA students learn the importance of the Chanukah story and how it relates to our lives today.

With Covid numbers rising through our community and most students throughout Virginia Beach learning from home, the SIA students are feeling so fortunate to be able to learn and celebrate Chanukah with their friends at school in person.

For more information on the Strelitz International Academy, please contact:
Carin Simon, Admissions Director: 757-424-4327 or

Register Today for The 32nd Annual SIA Golf Tournament

car for golf play

As Governor Northam’s plan to start opening Virginia back up moves through various stages of returning to “normal” activities, we are optimistically planning to move forward with our 32nd Annual Strelitz International Academy Golf Tournament. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, September 15, 2020 at Bayville Golf Club. The course is located at 4137 First Court Road in Virginia Beach. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and tee off time is noon.

After months of staying at home and keeping ourselves safely distanced from friends and loved ones, we are looking forward to getting together for some fun, excitement, and fresh air. The tournament will feature contests, prizes, and great food, all framed by a beautiful, waterfront golf course.

Our annual golf tournament is our biggest fundraiser of the year, so we’re not only looking forward to having individuals and teams join us on the links, we have sponsorship opportunities available for those who would like to donate to this worthwhile affair. You can view the sponsorships opportunities on our registration flyer.

Your participation in this event as a golfer or a sponsor helps to ensure we can provide the quality education and experience for which Strelitz is known.

To register for our 32nd Annual Golf Tournament, you can sign up online, you can complete the fillable PDF and email it to Patti Seeman at, or you can mail the completed PDF with your entrance fee to Patti Seeman at Strelitz International Academy, 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Suite 180, Virginia Beach, VA 23462. We look forward to having you join us out there!

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