Shaping the History and Future of Education With Elliot Merenbloom


At 83, one man’s lifelong passion for teaching is still shaping the future.

(Courtesy of Elliot Merenbloom)

Elliot Y. Merenbloom, a Baltimorean, has served his community as a classroom teacher, school counselor, assistant principal, principal, director of middle school instruction and area director. For the past 28 years, he has been a national consultant in the area of school organization, scheduling and restructuring.

Merenbloom lives in Pikesville with his wife, Ilene. Their two sons live close by, one in Howard County and another in Baltimore County. Merenbloom is a member and past president of Beth El Congregation.

His work as a national consultant involves traveling around the country running workshops and training sessions for teachers, counselors and principals.

Recently, his consulting work took flight. Merenbloom was among 49 Beth El Congregation members who spent 10 days in Israel from March 20 to 30. There, Merenbloom spoke to about 70 future educators and a few professors at the Kibbutzim Teacher’s College, which is housed at Tel Aviv University.

His goal was to help future educators better understand what teachers have been doing here in the United States, examine similarities and differences and establish a conversation about education.

Merenbloom’s passion for education is rooted in his esteem for teachers.

“I believe that teachers need to fully recognize the role that they play in shaping the lives of others,” Merenbloom said. “A teacher is not just a dispenser of information, but part of a system looking to shape the minds and confidence of students in preparation for life.”

His fierce desire to make a difference led Merenbloom to join a movement shaping education. Merenbloom championed the middle school movement alongside colleagues and mentors from all over the county. The movement, which began in the 1960s, included innovative teaching strategies like team teaching, modular and flexible scheduling and the inclusion of interdisciplinary teaching practices. It provided a bridge between elementary and high school, and it was more development-focused than junior high schools.

As principal of Pikesville Middle School, Merenbloom had a chance to hone his strategies and see them at work helping teachers and students alike.

“I was convinced that the students who are in special education classes are not having the chance to be put in the least restrictive environment,” Merenbloom said.

A least restrictive environment is important so that students of all abilities have meaningful access to their peers in an integrated setting. When students with disabilities don’t have this access, they can miss out on opportunities for social development and other areas. Merenbloom cited an example of students who are receiving help in math not having the chance to learn a world language or students who need help in reading not having the opportunity to explore the arts. This is where the middle school movement’s changes to scheduling were applied to be more flexible, to give these students more access to equal opportunities.

Another area Merenbloom advocated for was in the development of career pathways. Merenbloom said he believes it’s crucial for students to have the chance to begin thinking about careers. Now, students in middle and high schools are taking courses in accounting, anatomy and psychology.

“In Israel, a lot of the students get this training through the military, many of them come away with a pretty good sense of what they want to do and what they want to be,” Merenbloom said, “In my opinion, Israel has the upper hand in that.”

Today, Merenbloom said too many people don’t know the history of middle school.

According to Merenbloom, the current educational environment has room to grow in supporting and training its teachers.

“Teaching is not an easy job. My job was to take care of the teachers, not just the students,” Merenbloom said.

Merenbloom became the person he is today in part thanks to mentors who have guided and encouraged him throughout his life, such as Conrad Toepfer, John H. Lounsbury and Louis Kaplan. One convinced him that he could write, and he went on to co-author several books. Another helped him and a group of peers attend a Hebrew-speaking camp when he was young.

“Those kinds of influences make a difference, and I’m hoping that through my work, I can make a difference,” Merenbloom said.

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