Bender and her fellow students thrive at Northwest Yeshiva High School

Senior receives National Merit Scholarship program honor.

Remote-only learning was not resonating with Ella Bender when the pandemic hit.

When her junior year approached, she chose to transfer from Roosevelt High School in Seattle to Northwest Yeshiva High School (NYHS) on Mercer Island since the local school offered its students a hybrid model at the outset of the 2020-21 school year.

Bender, now a senior, also felt that she could thrive at the smaller school by attending classes with fewer students and having more open lines of communication with her teachers for asking copious questions throughout the school day.

NYHS provided a welcoming atmosphere for the new student, who enjoys the critical thinking and analysis aspects of the school’s curriculum. She especially enjoys her physiology and history classes that are led by teachers Paige Reed and Steve Kaufman, respectively.

“I made friends really easily. Everybody in a grade is super close to each other because we have basically every class, so we spend all day with each other. There’s a lot of opportunity to build really good relationships with people here,” Bender said.

Sporting a 4.03 grade-point average, Bender recently saw her academic diligence come to fruition by receiving a letter of commendation from the National Merit Scholarship program.

According to a press release, Bender — who scored 1420 out of 1520 on the PSAT last year — is one of 34,000 commended students throughout the nation who are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.

Bender was both surprised and thrilled when she received the honor.

“It was a lot of hard work, but I’m glad that I got the opportunity to show that,” said Bender, who is leaning toward majoring in neuroscience in college at the moment. “I really like school. I really like learning and sort of taking apart information and putting it back together in new ways.”

NYHS is the only accredited Jewish high school to offer dual curriculum in the northwest and has about 55 students on its campus at 5017 90th Ave. SE. According to Lindsey Mutschler, dean of academics, “our students take upwards of 10 classes each semester, learning to manage their time and balance the workload of Judaics and general studies courses.”

Further academic challenges await students through a partnership with the University of Washington in the High School program, which features math, English and Hebrew courses. NYHS instructors teach the courses and students receive UW credit upon completion.

A vital aspect of the NYHS curriculum comes front and center when students debate ethical dilemmas in the school’s all-community town halls, which are attended by peers, faculty and parents.

“I’d say a pedagogical value underlying all of our coursework is a belief that students are capable of great nuance and should be presented opportunities in every class to share their opinions, engage with content, and grapple with ‘big ideas,’” Mutschler said.

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