Dan Bernstein, Merage Jewish Community Center President and CEO, recently announced that the Merage JCC is sending its first cohort of nine teachers to Reggio, Italy, the home base of the Reggio Emilia curriculum the JCC’s preschool school espouses. The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It was developed after World War II by a teacher, Loris Malaguzzi, and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia in Italy. Following the war, people believed that children were in need of a new way of learning. Malaguzzi believed that people form their own personality during early years of development, and that children are endowed with “a hundred languages” through which they can express their ideas. The aim of this approach is teaching children how to use these symbolic languages (eg., painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration, and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment, based on the interests of the children through a self-guided curriculum.
According to Bernstein, this is just the first step in this professional development initiative. The JCC plans to add professional development opportunities in Israel as well, providing every faculty member with diverse and unparalleled opportunities. “We intend to dig deeper into practices and philosophies that engage children and equip our teachers and families with leading-edge knowledge.” Research suggests that, like many professions, effective teaching is the result of study, reflection, practice, and hard work. Schools that provide team-based professional development demonstrate that they are serious about all educators performing at higher levels. Not surprisingly, additional research confirms that the most important factor contributing to a student’s success in school is the quality of teaching. “This is truly a remarkable undertaking that will touch every aspect of our community, our children’s growth and education. The word incredible is just not big enough to describe the school’s investment, the learning experience or the knowledge gained.” – Laura Landman, Merage JCC board member and Aronoff Preschool mom.
Lisa Monette, Director of the JCC’s Eric & Sheila Samson Family Early Childhood Learning Center, explained, “The Reggio approach follows several key principles, chief among them is the idea that every child is ‘capable and competent.’ We’ll access presentations and seminars by pedagogistas (curriculum liaison), teachers and atelieristas (artists and naturalists) on this principle of the Reggio philosophy and on its values overall. Topics will cover the image of the competent child; observation, interpretation and documentation; the role of the environment; the pedagogy of listening; and a specific emphasis on parents’ involvement in the life of the school.” The teachers expect to return with more tools and resources to tap into every child’s individual creative processes.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.