Frequently Asked Questions

We opened our doors with 14 students in our inaugural year 2020-2021, now in our second year, we have grown 85% to 26 students. Our students occasionally work together as a whole group but are more often divided into smaller groups, including their three homeroom classes. Smaller working groups for core subjects typically have a range of two to eight students.
In our second year, we have a 6:1 student-teacher ratio. This low student-teacher ratio allows us to provide intensive individualized instruction. We anticipate keeping a low student-teacher ratio as we grow our school for years to come.
Numerous studies affirm that immersion is the best way to teach foreign languages. It is more successful than any other educational method in promoting bilingualism and literacy in two languages. Immersion is most effective when it begins early in a child's academic career. It is not necessary to have previous knowledge of Spanish to enter our program before the 2nd grade. Students without prior exposure to Spanish who start our program early — in kindergarten and 1st grade — will gradually build their knowledge of Spanish. However, if students enter our school in 2nd - 5th grades, they will encounter greater academic demands that all children face as they grow older. In the process, the cognitive demands placed on these older students to speak and understand Spanish, as well as to read and write in Spanish for half of their instructional time, will also increase. For this reason, students wishing to enter Tampa Bay International School from grades 2-5 must demonstrate at least a basic level of understanding of Spanish and initial speaking skills. These skills can be acquired in a number of ways. They include:
  • Previous Spanish instruction in or outside of school – through a FLES or after school program, a summer camp, a Saturday school or an immersion program elsewhere
  • Hearing and speaking Spanish at home
  • Previous experience living in a Spanish-speaking country
  • Contact with Spanish speakers on a regular basis
To be able to communicate with the 450 million native Spanish speakers on the planet, who speak the world’s second most common language. To learn the second most widely spoken language in Tampa Bay, throughout Florida, and in the United States.
  • Over 20% of all Floridians speak Spanish.
  • Since 2010, St. Pete’s population of citizens born in Latin America has increased by 40%.
  • Clearwater’s Hispanic population is estimated at 20%.
  • 25% of Tampa’s residents are Hispanic.
  • The Latino population throughout Tampa Bay is expected to skyrocket by 27% over the next 15 – 20 years.
Learning Spanish is also a complement to our Jewish programming because of the large Spanish-speaking Jewish population here in Florida and throughout the World.  
  • Because social relationships and travel experiences are enhanced for bilingual people!
  • Because becoming bilingual is a mind opening experience! Bilinguals have an added appreciation of other people, cultures, and perspectives.
  • Because becoming bilingual adds to a person’s future academic opportunities and earning potential!
  • Because becoming bilingual makes you smarter! Bilinguals hold many cognitive advantages over people who speak only one language.
Because diverse, integrated schools:
  • Encourage critical thinking, problem solving, leadership skills, and creativity.
  • Promote cross-cultural collaboration and equity.
  • Reduce racial achievement gaps.
  • Reduce racial bias, counter stereotypes, and build empathy.
And because students in integrated schools:
  • Demonstrate increased academic achievement.
  • Are less likely to drop out of school and are more likely to enroll in college.
  • Are more likely to seek out integrated settings later in life.
  • Are better prepared to work in a global economy.
The arts are highly engaging and a natural fit for teaching language. The arts permit children to display their creativity, explore their passions, and speak out for what they believe in. The arts can be a comforting, therapeutic outlet for children. The arts add beauty to the world and enhance our lives. Additionally, research on the arts shows that:
  • The arts improve school readiness for young children.
  • The arts increase creativity, critical thinking skills, tolerance, and empathy.
  • The arts aid in brain development and rewiring in positive ways and produce other biological benefits.
  • The arts reduce behavioral infractions and improve attendance and graduation rates among high school students, especially those of low socioeconomic status.
Research has shown that the challenging nature of immersion is beneficial to gifted students. Additionally, our small school and the approach we take to instruction — grouping students based on ability level and interest and not always by grade level — benefits students who are gifted. This allows them to be challenged appropriately and take on work that is more cognitively demanding. Furthermore, our regular instruction includes the implementation of teaching strategies for gifted learners. These strategies include acceleration of curriculum, compacting curriculum, and differentiation of instruction to meet the needs of students who are gifted. Finally, we are committed to providing our teaching staff with continuous professional development geared toward gifted students.
Research shows that when provided appropriate accommodations, students with a variety of special needs are usually able to achieve success in language immersion programs. Our classroom teachers are knowledgeable and experienced in differentiating instruction in order to meet the needs of all learners. Parents who have children with special needs are advised to share those needs with our school early in the application process. This way, we can work together to decide if our school will be the best fit for their children.
Before care is available at no additional cost beginning at 8:00 AM each day. Formal instruction begins at 9:00 AM and ends at 3:50 PM. After care and after school enrichment classes are available for an additional cost until 5:30 PM each day
Classes vary from session to session. A sample of past offerings include: soccer, volleyball, cooking, visual arts enrichment, gardening, and poetry slam. Most after school classes meet once a week.
TBIS students come from as far as Tarpon Springs in Northern Pinellas County and South St. Petersburg in Southern Pinellas County. We welcome students from far and wide to our growing school.
We do not currently offer transportation to school. However, we are currently researching shuttle and bus options to offer to our families. We hope to provide a Northern shuttle and a Southern shuttle along the US-19 artery as soon as feasible. Presently, many of our families carpool together to reduce daily drives to school. Please reach out to us to ask about transportation availability, as this may have changed.
Many of our families had similar concerns; some of them may even live nearby you and could be a future carpool partner! Something we hear from many of our parents is that while Tampa Bay International School may be farther than their previous school, because of our smaller student body, there is almost no carline, which can take 30+ minutes to navigate at some area schools. At TBIS, time spent in a carline typically averages no more than 5-10 minutes for most parents, and often less. Please reach out to us with concerns about proximity as our transportation availability may have changed.
We recognize play as central to child development and a necessary component of every school day. In our elementary school, children have two daily outdoor recess sessions — a long mid-day recess of 30 minutes and a shorter 20-minute afternoon recess period — unless the weather requires recess to take place indoors. Our middle school students also enjoy a long 30 minute mid-day recess period and a slightly shorter afternoon break. Both elementary and middle school students have the opportunity for unstructured play from 8:15 AM until our school day begins at 9 AM.
It depends who you ask! Tampa Bay International School is the only school in Pinellas County that features a vibrant program of progressive Jewish education and a parallel program of Ethics & World Beliefs, as key components of a curriculum featuring social justice (tzedakah and tikkun olam), the promotion of peace (shalom) and the protection of our planet (shmirat ha adamah.) TBIS offers Jewish education that showcases inclusivity in action. Enrolled at TBIS are students of many faiths, ethnicities and nationalities, students with diverse abilities, and families from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The student body is half Jewish, with many of those children’s families unaffiliated with a synagogue. Those who worry that we may be taking an unconventional path for a Jewish school might be surprised to learn that day schools in numerous communities with smaller Jewish populations — like Pinellas County — are making the move to pluralistic student bodies. Our hope is that Tampa Bay International School can serve as a gateway to Jewish connections and be a touchpoint for more Jewish families to have more Jewish educational and spiritual experiences.
Led by Rabbi Danielle Upbin and sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Jewish values are woven through numerous aspects of the school's curriculum. Teachers weave the Jewish values of limud (academic excellence), tzedek (integrity) and tikkun olam (a desire to improve the world) throughout Tampa Bay International School’s program. With regard to formal religious instruction, TBIS is committed to providing students with an understanding and appreciation of all religions while respecting religious and cultural diversity. All students celebrate Shabbat together at Closing Circle on Friday. Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, students will have the choice of Jewish Studies or Ethics & World Beliefs as part of the core curriculum. Jewish Studies provides an in-depth study of Judaism with a focus on the diversity that exists within our Jewish community. Ethics & World Beliefs investigates common themes in major religions of the world through holidays, traditions, life cycles, as well various religious texts and philosophies.
The short and emphatic answer to this question is "no." At Tampa Bay International School, ongoing emphasis is placed on being part of a community (kehillah), finding connections between generations (l’dor vador), strengthening ties to Israel (klal Yisrael), enjoying a love of learning (simchat limmudim), caring for our earth (shmirat ha-adamah), acting justly (tzedek), positively impacting our world (tikkun olam) and promoting peace (shalom). It is these as well as many other Jewish teachings that are at the heart of everything we do. Every student participates in a celebration of Shabbat every Friday at Closing Circle. We introduce all of our children to the idea of tzedakah, reflect on Torah lessons and share in the Jewish rituals that surround Shabbat. As a component of our Tikkun Olam curriculum, all classes participate in age-appropriate community service projects, including food drives, community clean-up efforts, and mitzvah projects for area social service organizations. Every student learns about and participates in the celebration of Jewish holidays throughout the school year. Students learn about seminal events throughout Jewish history. Families are requested to respect Jewish dietary guidelines and follow them while on school grounds. Rabbis throughout the community are engaged and consulted on numerous matters relevant to our school, curriculum and associated programs.
Commitment to diversity is core to our philosophy and the benefits of a diverse student population are many. We believe one of the most effective strategies to foster a greater compassion for Jewish lives, in our country and around the globe, is to establish educational opportunities that bring Jewish and non-Jewish people together – starting at a young age – in order to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect. By welcoming and exposing others to our Jewish heritage, we can create lifelong friendships that cross cultural and religious boundaries. At Tampa Bay International School, we believe that exposing those of other faiths to Judaism – especially children – demystifies our religion and discourages the spread of anti-Semitism. Those who think that opening our doors to non-Jews is an unconventional path for a Jewish day school might be surprised to learn that the concept has moved into the mainstream. Our student population includes students who are Jewish, non-Jewish and of mixed faith. By operating as a school that welcomes Jews of all levels of observance and affiliation, as well as non-Jews of all faiths and cultures, we get to expose non-Jewish students to our beautiful heritage and traditions. Inspired by a curriculum that promotes social justice and embraces diversity, our graduates will become leaders in combating intolerance and anti-Semitism in high school, college, and beyond. Additionally, by fostering an appreciation for those who are different from themselves, Tampa Bay International School works to create global citizens who can engage with others cooperatively and who have empathy for — and an understanding of — people who may be very different from themselves. This will be crucial for achieving success in the global workplace of tomorrow.


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Priscilla Velez

Priscilla teaches dance, music and Zumba! She loves teaching languages and cultural arts as a means to create bridges between communities. Her dynamic lessons focus on the incorporation of mindfulness and joy. In addition to her work with our students, she has also taught in the 2020 virtual summer camp held jointly by Tampa Bay International School and Jewish Community Camp. Priscilla is additionally the founder and lead educator of Seeds of Peace School of Languages, Health, and Cultural Arts, a space where she facilitates lessons that incorporate dance, language arts, music, and life skills

Dr. Richard Zamoff 

Board member Dr. Richard Zamoff is an associate professor of sociology at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. His areas of specialization include Research Methods and Program Evaluation, the Sociology of Education, and the Relationship Between Sports and Society. Since 1996, he has served as the Director of the Jackie Robinson Project and since 2000, as the faculty advisor to the Jackie and Rachel Robinson Society, a GW student organization. He is a member of the advisory board of the Jackie Robinson Museum in New York City. Prior to his arrival at GW, Dr. Zamoff managed and supervised technical work on government contracts related to day care, health education, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and traffic safety.

Rabbi Danielle Upbin

Rabbi Danielle Upbin teaches Jewish studies and yoga at Tampa Bay International School. She is also the Associate Rabbi and Prayer Leader at Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater; Community Educator for the Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast; and a regular contributor to MyJewishLearning.Com. Originally from New York City, Rabbi Upbin graduated from Barnard College with a degree in political science and received her ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2002. From 2012- 2016, she taught throughout the region as the JTS Florida Rabbinic Fellow. Rabbi Upbin enjoys sharing her love of Judaism and song with students of all ages. She is a certified yoga instructor and interweaves Jewish meditation, spirituality, and yoga into her classes. Her musical releases of universal prayer are available wherever music is streamed. Rabbi Upbin resides in Clearwater with her husband (and co-rabbi) Rabbi David Weizman, four children, and a menagerie of pets.

Tracy Bortnick Lynn

Board member Tracy Bortnick Lynn is a mother of three and was a criminal prosecutor for 8 years in Montgomery County, Maryland. She began practicing law in 2005 after graduating from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. While raising her family in Florida for the past 6 years with her husband Eric, Tracy has been an active volunteer for organizations such as: Friends of North Shore, Temple Beth El Early Childhood Center, The Florida Holocaust Museum, Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services, and Congregation B’nai Israel. Tracy also served as chair of After School programming for the Parent Teacher Association at North Shore Elementary School- leading the scholarship program to help ensure equal participation by all students in after school programs. Tracy studied Spanish in Seville, Spain while earning her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan. Tracy values diversity and bilingualism in an educational setting and looks forward to her children and all of those at TBIS continuing to learn how to make a positive impact on their communities.

Rachel Elias Wein

Rachel Elias Wein is a  board member and a parent to three sons, two of whom are students at Tampa Bay International School! Professionally, Rachel is a strategic advisor to retailers like Walgreens, Publix, and Kroger, as well as institutional real estate owners. Rachel serves on the boards of directors of Great Explorations Children's Museum in St. Petersburg, Camp Judaea in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and the University of Florida's Bergstrom Real Estate Center.

Angelica Long-Diaz

Lead Teacher Angelica Long-Diaz is a Panamanian-American educator who spent most of her childhood years in Varese, Italy. Angelica comes from a multicultural family and speaks English, Spanish, and Italian. She holds a bachelor's degree in Special Education from Columbus State University and a Master's Degree from the University of Kansas in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL.) Angelica has taught both children and adults in a variety of settings, both in the US and abroad. Before joining the faculty at Tampa Bay International School, she taught in Daegu, South Korea. An avid gardener, Angelica also leads our students in the creation of our school garden, where our students grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers.


A native of Chicago, board member Erika Lopez is a mother of three with a profession in dental healthcare. Erika holds a BA in Communications/Marketing but her passion is working within her community, where she has been active for the past decade. Erika has served as a board member and vice chair of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum and is currently a Political Action Chairwoman for the NAACP St. Petersburg Branch, educating the community about the political process through voter registration, public events and candidate forums. Erika has earned the NAACP Presidential Award for Excellence in Service. Growing up bilingual in English and Spanish, Erika believes in an intellectual as well as a cultural advantage in education that she very much desires for her own three children, and would love to help bring to children throughout Tampa Bay.


Visual Arts teacher and aide Virginia Chacon is originally from San José, Uruguay. Before moving to Florida with her family a decade ago, Virginia lived in Washington, DC, where she worked at the Embassy of Uruguay for several years and obtained a degree in Hospitality Management. Virginia has worked with children in a number of capacities at Washington International School in Washington, DC and throughout the Tampa Bay area, including as a Spanish tutor. A licensed Realtor, Virginia feels that teaching art and spending time with children offer a nice balance to the sometimes stressful and fast pace of the real estate world. Virginia hopes that children learn to enjoy the process of creating art and that they become inspired by learning about other artists, from nature and by their own need to create.


Board member Dr. Vonzell Agosto is an associate professor of curriculum studies in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of South Florida. Her research agenda focuses on curriculum leadership and anti-oppressive education for adults and youth with an emphasis on issues related to race, gender, and dis/ability. In pursuing this line of inquiry she considers the role of technology, ethics, arts, aesthetics, and culture (ethnic, popular, material). She has published articles in Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, and the Journal of School Leadership.


Bennett Zamoff is the founder of Tampa Bay International School and additionally serves as our school Head and a Lead Teacher. Bennett is an experienced educator who is passionate about language immersion as best practice in fostering bilingualism. Bennett has taught in a number of schools throughout the Washington, DC area, in Ecuador, and in Tampa Bay. Bennett’s graduate and professional interest and expertise center on first and second language acquisition and immersion education in the United States and Canada. Bennett is also a strong proponent of arts integration as a vital component of a rigorous academic program. Bennett holds masters degrees in Education K-8 and Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in TESOL. He is a recipient of the 4.0 Schools Essentials Fellowship as the founder of Tampa Bay International School. Bennett believes strongly in bilingualism as a necessary tool for all global citizens. He is the proud father of two children whom he and his wife are raising to be culturally competent, empathetic, and bilingual world citizens.