Teacher Marla Gelfont is hitting homeruns in classroom lesson plans

Marla Gelfont
Photo credit Marla Gelfont

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Getting students excited about school is no easy task for a teacher, so why not make Philadelphia sports a part of the lesson?

“It gets the kids to actively want to learn,” says Marla Gelfont, a Spanish teacher at Northeast High School and religious school teacher at Ohev Shalom Synagogue in Bucks County.

Ohev Shalom Executive Director Barbara Glickman has worked with Gelfont since 2008 and instantly saw a correlation between the success of Philadelphia sports and what Gelfont may be wearing to work that day.

“Over the last couple years, I think that her level of excitement, enthusiasm and dedication has stepped up also,” said Glickman. “And I’ve seen her put more of her love for Philly sports into her work, into her life.”

It’s safe to say Gelfont and the rest of the fans have had much to root for over the past year with the Eagles and Phillies — and she’s taken advantage of that.

‘I have to know what’s going on’ 

Gelfont is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan — growing up as a self-described “Philly sports nut” who knows when the important games are and “when I should be jumping on the bandwagon.” She cried sitting next to her sons as the Eagles won Super Bowl LII. Those sons are in their 20’s and, evidently, they don’t enjoy talking about stuff like the weather or clothes.

“If I want to keep my sons on the phone for more than five minutes, I have to know what’s going on [with Philadelphia sports],” she said.

So, Gelfont is up to date with the who, what, when, where and why of her favorite teams.

“I'm not, like, overly critical. I just want our team to win,” Gelfont said. “I'm not one of those people that was ready to trade [Joel] Embiid or trade [fellow Sixer James] Harden like lots of people were talking about, or even fire [former Sixers head coach] Doc Rivers, but that's not my decision. I just want our team to win. It's so wonderful.”

Gelfont recalled how great it was at the parade when the Sixers won the NBA Championship in 1983 at Veterans Stadium and wishes there would be more opportunities for celebration, especially because her kids haven’t had the chance to experience a Sixers parade.

But aside from being a Philly sports nut, Gelfont is also a teacher – something she had longed to do since childhood.

“Loved going to school,” Gelfont said. “Was obsessed with my teachers, so it just seemed right.”

Now, Gelfont teaches high school students at her alma mater, Northeast High. She also teaches fifth graders at Ohev Shalom.

Extra points up for grabs

So how does Gelfont work in Philadelphia sports to her teachings?

Well, one example is when the Eagles were in Super Bowl LVII this past year, she offered her students at Northeast extra credit if they memorized the Eagles Fight Song in Spanish.

Another example happened at the synagogue when Glickman found a Hebrew word search compatible with the fifth grade level. Gelfont had her students look up Hebrew words pertaining to baseball.

“The best things that I've ever learned are when I didn't even realize I was learning them,” says Gelfont. “So when you have fun things that they can relate to, it makes it a lot more fun than just trying to learn something flat out of a textbook.”

And there’s more where that came from. Gelfont has brought in Eagles-related stickers to her class, handing them out to the kids, which she said was well-received. Her class has made posters. The synagogue has held pep rallies.

Marla Gelfont's dog
Mary Jane, Marla Gelfont's dog. Photo credit Marla Gelfont

“She wears her Philly sports team love on her sleeve and she wears her love for teaching on her sleeve also,” said Glickman, who sees Gelfont’s infectious excitement go from Ohev Shalom to everywhere else.

I mean, her dogs Fozzy and Mary Jane even dress the part thanks to Gelfont. Last Halloween when the Phillies were in the World Series, Gelfont’s precious dogs were wearing their Phillies jerseys, as well as hotdogs. They were Phillies franks.

Get it?

The importance of sports 

One thing that is undeniable about sports – it’s the ultimate unifier. Gelfont’s fandom is a direct indication of that, whether it’s her classroom or family.

In her class, she’s using sports to help educate kids and make the day fun.

“It's a way to bring all of the fan love of sports to the classroom and make us like one group.”

And then at home, her love of sports creates a special bond with the people she loves.

“It's very important because sports is all about being competitive. I'm a very competitive person. I've always been a very competitive person. And also it brings people together. It might divide us, too. It just brings people [together] that you would never on the street have something in common with ... And it’s fun. It’s fun because we all need to have fun in our day. Even if we're, like, throwing things at the TV because our team isn't winning,” Gelfont said with a laugh.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Marla Gelfont