When you walk past Sarra Lev's Talmud classroom, you can hear her prodding her students, pacing back and forth like a caged lion and posing questions at a decibel level that belies her diminutive stature.
Among the students, she's known as a stickler. She works hard to draw them out and, as she says, she doesn't care what opinions they express, as long as they express them.
As she looks out on her students, she sees a wide diversity in life experience and age. Seated around the seminar-style desk are some recently graduated from undergraduate institutions and some who have already worked 20 or more years in their chosen fields.
To reach all of them, some who are rustier in their skills than others, she recalls her mother's experience as a teacher. In their Toronto home, Lev would listen to her mother tutoring students in the dining room. "Watching how people learn differently had a huge influence on me," she says.
In her own classroom, as she goes through the paces, Lev hears the voice of her mother. "I try to present a topic in as many possible ways as I can," she says. "I use my body to walk around the class and set things up. I use the board to chart things out. I sometimes say, 'Right now you are a rabbi and I am a congregant, and I know nothing about this topic, so how are you going to present this to me now?' So I think I try to get at whatever we are doing from as many angles as possible and hope that it hits everyone somewhere."