Teacher Feature: Professor Dresdner

Leo Farber ‘18

“Everyday is a flurry of new experiences and challenges that progress my teaching abilities while amazing me to be working in such an intellectually astute and rigorous, yet enjoyable academic environment.” – Professor Dresdner

On December 14th 1953, Ruth Dresdner was born into an era of great prosperity and conflict. Calling the booming economic capital that was New York City home, Professor Dresdner spent her first three years of life toddling amidst the budding civil rights movement and the internal American crusade against communism while also enjoying the benefits from America’s leading role in the world’s economy, industry, and military. Both her mother and father were of Israeli descent and  at the age of three, her family moved back to Israel where she was introduced to academia and developed her fondness for knowledge that would help her to excel throughout her professional career. Growing up, distractions such as TV and other electronics were not part of her daily encounters, so she became immersed in reading and schoolwork. With the motivational support of two of her major role models, her grandfather and father, Professor Dresdner quickly developed a passion for intellect. Before she knew it, her summer vacations consisted of dropping by the public library twice a day in search of new material to explore.

Starting at the age of 6, Professor Dresdner began attending a widely recognized German-traditionalist run Israeli private school known for its intense and rigorous academic curriculum, as well as a variety of exceptional teachers and the fact that classes leaned on the large side, including up to 42 students per room. Although she did not have a favorite subject throughout her childhood, she had a strong sense of appreciation for a very diverse range of study. By the tenth grade, Dresdner was an exquisite reader and thinker and was thrilled to be studying Hamlet in literature, taking a life science class, and learning about the legal world in history. However, her greatest take away, that originality and excellence are rooted in contrasting opinion and thought, stemmed from her motivational and curious family as well as the rigorous academic environment she partook in, both of which she is extremely grateful for. While her father and grandfather often engaged her in mature and intellectual conversations regarding real world issues, attending a school with large classes allowed her to articulate those ideas to her classmates, stimulating academic discussion and exposing her to all sorts of perspectives and more importantly the necessity of diversity and contrast on an intellectual level.

When it came time for Professor Dresdner to attend college, she chose the Hebrew University in the City of Jerusalem where she majored in philosophy, channeling the knowledge and principles she developed and perfected throughout her rigorously academic childhood. However, when graduate school came around, her interest had shifted to the public sector of architecture, leading her to move back to America where she pursued small-scale architectural firms for work and began doing drafting work. Here, she realized her passion and began edging towards a career in architectural design. Additionally, Professor Dresdner worked for the Library of Columbia where she helped reshelve books, but more importantly, this experience enhanced and fueled her yearning for knowledge. After a year working at the library, she began taking graduate classes at the University of Pennsylvania where she primarily studied architecture. Ever since, she has been working professionally as an architect and mentoring the younger generations of architects to come. As if being a full time architect isn’t enough, Professor Dresdner’s recent debut in the world of teaching was brought about by a long life of passion, curiosity, and desire to lead and give back. This being her first year as a professor, one is inclined to wonder what compelled her to want to teach and subsequently what drew her to BHSEC?

After spending the entirety of her adult career captivated by architectural design and urban reform, she knew that the public served an extremely important, yet unrecognized role in the subject and chose to take it upon herself to educate the “thinkers of tomorrow.” Both her son Gideon and daughter Maya had looked into BHSEC themselves, but it was one of the first open house nights that the school hosted that seized her interest. Under the impression that typical NYC high school curriculums did not take advantage of teenager’s full potentials, Dresdner attended the open house with hopes of rediscovering the academic rigor she grew so accustomed to throughout her childhood. Fortunately for her, that is exactly what she found. Immediately the diligent academic environment that is BHSEC struck her eye and the unorthodox curriculum seemed to be the perfect glove for her curveball of a class. Professor Dresdner explained that, “the architectural field is extremely internalized despite the fact that it caters to millions of people. Over time the process of city planning loosened its ties with the actual inhabitants of the city and the decisions affecting a whole neighborhood fell into the hands of a single architect or developer. For city planners to fulfill their commitment to the city and the people of the city, it is both the architect’s responsibility to listen to the civilians they service, and the people’s responsibility to speak up and take advantage of their agency in society. This essential bond between creator and civilian is very real and complex and that is precisely why I chose to expose BHSEC students to it. When I attended the open house, above everything else the speaker made it clear that BHSEC students are more committed, more interested, and more intellectually astute than any other students in the city, and that’s when I knew my ideas would thrive here.”

As someone currently taking Dresdner’s Y1 elective class, “Reading the Built Environment,” focusing on city planning and urban reform using NYC as our platform, I can definitely attest to her success from a student’s perspective. From Professor Dresdner’s perspective, her reflection characterized the class as an “intense balancing act.” Although Dresdner claims her first 2 months teaching have been far from easy, consisting of constant work and self reflection to critique her teaching style and find solid ground regarding what kind of teacher she is, she feels extremely satisfied in the intellectual conversations she has managed to stimulate in the classroom and the overall positive response by her students. So far, all of her aspirations have been met if not surpassed at BHSEC. Over the next 5 years, she hopes to continue teaching at BHSEC while pursuing some major, top-secret, design projects, as well as fulfilling some personal goals such as traveling the world.

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