Members of south Texas' Jewish community remembered Robin Schneiderman – who died last Wednesday at the age of 62 – as a dear friend, a true inspiration and a mentor. Schneiderman, who was fondly referred to as Morah Robin – morah means teacher in Hebrew – taught the pre-K class in S. Antonio's Gan Gani Day School until two months before her passing.

When Schneiderman walked into a service at Chabad-Lubavitch of South Texas one day in 1999, she was not looking for a new job. Neither was Rivkie Block, the Chabad center's co-director, looking for a new hire. But she did need a periodic substitute teacher and she asked the newcomer, in passing, if she could fill in.

After observing Schneiderman's teaching style for a short while, she was amazed by who she had come across.

"She was a rare find," relayed Block. "She was extremely educated and almost instinctively wise."

As the day school's needs grew, Block gave her own class responsibilities to Morah Robin and moved on to direct the school.

"It became her life," said Block. "She could be found in school before anyone got here, after they left, on Sundays, on holidays. She did more preparation than I've ever seen done for a preschool class."

Block's husband and co-director, Rabbi Chaim Block, said that in Schneiderman's seven years at Gan Gani, "people came to our school just to have Morah Robin as a teacher. She was so in tune, so natural."

Jacob Cohen graduated Morah Robin's class 2 years ago. His mother Ruthie Cohen said that the boy and his friends were not only taught academic lessons.

"They were taught life-lessons," she said. "And they knew it. Kids have a true sense of who has a real interest in them and who is just babysitting. Morah Robin was very passionate about teaching."

According to Cohen, that passion was also evident outside of the classroom.

Jacob has an avid interest in rocks, she said, and "Morah Robin would go to the library and take out books for him on rocks."

And even when Jacob moved on to another class, "she collected all sorts of rock brochures to bring back for him."

Individual Attention

Robin Schneiderman hands out challah to her preschoolers during a Friday-afternoon Shabbat party.
Robin Schneiderman hands out challah to her preschoolers during a Friday-afternoon Shabbat party.
Schneiderman was also regarded by parents and colleagues as a mentor. A former coworker, Chana Raizel Zaklikowski, credited her with inspiring her life and her career. Since leaving San Antonio, Zaklikowski – a mother of two and director of a Brooklyn, N.Y., playgroup – has looked to Schneiderman for guidance at every stage.

"Not only in teaching but as a mother, I would call her for advice or I'd just stop and think 'What would Morah Robin answer?' " explained Zaklikowski. "She's just so brilliant."

Amy Sugarman, a parent of three of Schneiderman's former students, said that she'll never forget her style of teaching.

"She didn't stick to lesson plans," remarked Sugarman. "If it was raining outside, she taught the kids about weather and rain. She taught them about the world around them."

Chief among Schneiderman's traits, added Sugarman, was the care she showed each and every child.

"She didn't put students into that square box," she said. "She was quick to point out if she felt you could do something extra to help your child grow. That's the kind of teacher you want for your child."

Robin Schneiderman is survived by her husband, retired USAF Colonel David Schneiderman, three sons and three grandchildren.

Chabad-Lubavitch of South Texas and the Gan Gani preschool are planning a memorial service next month.