West Nyack, NY - “Actually, my name is Cristobal Colon,” said the explorer, dressed in the style of the day – if today were the late 1400s: knickers, high-collared shirt and rakish cap. Fourteen fourth- and fifth-graders at Rockland Jewish Academy listened intently as Christopher Columbus, the self-described "greatest sailor who ever lived," told his story: the ups and downs of his several voyages and his search for “gold, glory and God.”
Columbus was embodied by Stanley Becker, a retired elementary school principal who now substitutes in Rockland county schools and at Hunter College Elementary School. When he offered to bring his portrayal of Columbus to RJA in honor of Columbus Day, Head Teacher/fifth grade teacher Rhonda Klein and fourth grade teacher Lori Rutcofsky quickly agreed, seeing the perfect way to literally bring their social studies unit on early explorers to life. The children sat rapt, their faces a study in concentration, as Columbus described his travels and the settlements he founded, the compelling search for gold as well as spices, the incorrect calculations he made about the size of the world and the length of his first journey, and the interactions with the indigenous people he found in the various lands he claimed for the king and queen of Spain.
“Hearing from the explorer himself was a great way to bring history to life,” said Head Teacher Rhonda Klein. “Mr. Becker’s deep knowledge of the subject allowed him to give context to Columbus’s story, and he really set the stage for our studies in this unit of world history. We are lucky to be in a small private school, where we can take advantage of opportunities like this to give our students more.”