Naomi Fox is the worthy recipient of this year’s Sokolof Outstanding Jewish Teacher Award. Naomi has been described as a “highly dedicated educator,” going “above and beyond,” and with a “smile that inspired us (students) to learn more.” Naomi has 12 years of teaching experience in Omaha Public Schools, and many very grateful students and their parents. She has left an indelible mark on each student that she teaches, and she has given hers students the tools to become successful in school and in life.
An Omaha native, Naomi is the daughter of Shelly Fox and Rick Fox, of blessed memory. She received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University, and her Masters in Elementary Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with an endorsement in teaching English Learners K-12. Naomi explained why she decided to specialize. “Towards the very end of my student teaching experience, I knew I wanted to explore a specific segment of education, rather than having a general elementary classroom. I am so grateful to have made the decision to teach English Learners.”
After graduating from Indiana University, Naomi returned to Omaha and started teaching English Learners at Ashland Park-Robbins Elementary School in south Omaha. After four years she transferred to Lewis and Clark Middle School, where she is finishing her fifth year. Next fall Naomi will start teaching English Learners at Burke High School.
In the summers of her high school and college years, Naomi worked at the JCC’s Youth Department as a camp counselor and after school care provider. She also worked as a Hebrew resource aide at Temple Israel. Naomi’s future was formed during these years of working with youth and aiding them with their homework. She found fulfillment in helping students, and she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in education.
Naomi said, “My favorite part of teaching is the excitement students show when they realize they’re making progress. I feel so honored to see them gain so many new skills during their time in my classroom.” Naomi feels that English Language Learners have the most difficult job in the school, and she wants to help them achieve success. She understands how daunting it is for them to be learning a new language while also learning all the content in the new language. Many of Naomi’s students are refugees or immigrants, and Naomi feels passionate about helping them and their families have a positive introduction to this country. Naomi stated, “I feel so honored to play a small part in their early experience in the US. I choose to teach this group of learners because they are usually eager and excited to learn, as they can see the immediate effect in their lives from their growth in English.”
Naomi said, “The amazing diversity I find in my classroom is just so exciting, and I love to see how the students connect with each other across cultures, languages and nationalities. I love learning about their different cultures.” Naomi has a great compassion and understanding for her students and their families. She understands that not only is the English language new to her students, but the customs and common practices of this country are equally novel and confusing. All this is considered in her teaching. Naomi doesn’t just teach her students, but eagerly learns from her students as well. She is truly interested in their native cultures. As a fellow teacher noted, “She also makes a point of learning about and encouraging her students to share and continue being proud of their native culture.”
Naomi has been involved with community gardens at both Ashland Park-Robbins and Lewis and Clark schools. Using the gardens as a teaching opportunity, Naomi has merged the science of growing and tending plants, the introduction of new English words and the results of the labor. The students are involved in the entire process and then rewarded by harvesting what they have planted and tended.
Naomi met Andrew Boehm while attending graduate school. Naomi and Andrew will celebrate seven years of marriage this summer. Their family consists of Naomi’s 14-year-old step-daughter, Juliette, and two-year-old daughter, Dalia. In her down time, Naomi enjoys spending time with her family outdoors, growing flowers and vegetables, traveling and attending live music venues.
Naomi has apparently mastered the art of time management. In addition to her teaching duties and family time, she is a chairperson with the Jewish Federation’s Holidays @Home project and has served on various committees at Temple Israel. She has taught 5th grade Hebrew and Judaica at Temple Israel, served as chair of the Religious School Tzedakah Committee at Temple Israel, and she mentors B’nai Mitzvah youth. She was also a BBYO advisor for five years for the BBG chapter, MZ Yoshanah. Additionally, Naomi volunteers at the Lewis and Clark school garden, caring for the garden during school breaks. Naomi has worked in the past with Restoring Dignity, an organization that supports refugee families by helping provide essential items including furniture, clothing, and cleaning supplies. Naomi said, “I loved being a part of their apartment flip projects that help refugee families be set up for success in their new homes.” Naomi has been described as, “A wonderful Jewish leader and role model,” and it is easy to see that it is a correct assessment of her character.
One of Naomi’s former students said, “I am really thankful for her and the things that she taught me.” Whether as a teacher for Omaha Public Schools, teacher and volunteer at Temple Israel, or volunteer in the greater Omaha area, Naomi has made a significant impact on the lives of her students, their families, and all who know her. She has dedicated her life to helping students new to this country feel welcome and on their way to successful school careers and beyond. A fellow teacher stated, “Naomi is a true advocate for her students and the populations they represent.” A positive attitude, an inspiring smile, a welcoming classroom and thankful students – a great environment for learning created by Naomi Fox.
The community is invited to a reception honoring Naomi and the recipients of the Sokolof Merit scholarships on Tuesday, June 15 at 6 p.m. The reception will be held in the Benjamin and Anna E. Wiesman Family Reception Room at the Staenberg Fellman Kooper Campus.
Nominations for next year’s 2022 Sokolof Outstanding Jewish Teacher Award can be sent at any time to Diane Walker, at the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation, 333 South 132nd Street, Omaha, NE 68154, or email@example.com.