Elementary School Teacher Jerry Ziskind, 63

Jerry Ziskind had master's and doctoral degrees in teaching, and he was eager to learn the latest education trends.
Jerry Ziskind had master's and doctoral degrees in teaching, and he was eager to learn the latest education trends. (Family Photo)
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007

Jerry Ziskind, 63, a former first-grade teacher at Mount Daniel Elementary School in Falls Church, died of bladder cancer Dec. 10 at his home in Falls Church.

Mr. Ziskind taught for more than 30 years, concentrating primarily on first-graders, believing that the early years were critical in laying a foundation for a child's learning.

In 1967, he began teaching in the District at Bancroft and Raymond elementary schools and later at John Eaton and Lafayette. Because of the year-to-year uncertainty of teaching contracts in the city, in 1981, he sought a more secure job in the Falls Church school system, where he stayed until his 2000 retirement.

Always enthusiastic about teaching, Mr. Ziskind sorted through the latest trends, choosing those that he thought worked best with his methods. He enjoyed sharing insights with other teachers, a colleague said, and having visitors to his classes, whether they were parents, residents or a children's book author.

In 1986, when Secretary of Education William J. Bennett recognized Mount Daniel and Thomas Jefferson elementary schools in Falls Church and Oakridge Elementary in Arlington for their "excellence in education," Mr. Ziskind told The Washington Post: "We deserve it. One of the best things that makes this school so special is that we are aware of each child's needs. No child gets lost in the cracks or lost in the shuffle."

When he was nominated for the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award in 1990, he didn't win, but that didn't stop him from praising colleague Carol Monsess when she won in 2006.

"He was a very caring teacher," Monsess said. "You could really tell he liked his students and did everything he could to help them out. Years ago, he had a child [in his classroom] with no arms. He helped him so much . . . and that young man ended up going to William and Mary College, is a terrific soccer player and is doing very well."

Mr. Ziskind was born in Jersey City and grew up in Secaucus, N.J. He graduated from Rutgers University and then spent a year at the University of Manchester in England, studying literature. Upon his return to the United States, he earned a master's degree in teaching English from Harvard University in 1966. The following year, he traveled the country, working as a substitute teacher in Omaha; Glencoe, Ill.; Beverly Hills, Calif.; and Bellevue, Wash. He settled in the Washington area in 1967.

He received a doctorate in elementary education from Catholic University in 1975 but was too modest to allow people to call him "Dr. Ziskind," his wife said.

A past president and board member of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, he was one of the founding members when the group spun off from the Washington Ethical Society in 1983. He was also the Falls Church representative to the advisory Fairfax County Commission of Aging.

After he retired from teaching, he tutored, wrote his parents' biographies, took up needlepoint, practiced tai chi and gardened. His Web site, http://jerry.ziskind.com, contains his reflections on his first years in retirement.

Survivors include his wife of 35 years, Rosemary Ziskind of Falls Church; two sons, Jeff Ziskind of Sterling and Ben Ziskind of San Diego; and two sisters.

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