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Strengthening Education

Olam Montessori To Begin at Beth Jacob

Olam Jewish Montessori of Beth Jacob was founded in 2011 on the Beth Jacob of Irvine campus in Irvine.  It is a private school for children ages 2 to 6 years.  According to the website, “We believe that each and every child is special and unique, and deserves the opportunity of fulfilling his potential to the fullest.  We strive to infuse each child with a passion for learning, a sense of curiosity and a feeling of menschkite.  Our goal is to provide children with a lifelong love of learning and a sense of who they are and to create an environment based on the teachings of the Torah and mitzvot in a safe and happy Jewish environment.  The emotional and physical wellbeing of our children are our first priority.  We plan to open our facility in September 2011, pending state licensing.”

The Montessori method of teaching is based on the philosophy of Italian educator and physician Maria Montessori (1870-1952) and recognizes the child’s natural desire to learn from his environment.  According to Dr. Montessori “education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”  She observed that young children learn best in an environment that allows for hands on experiences.  The teacher acts as a link between the child and the prepared environment, and the child is free to fulfill his potential.  Most of the educational materials found today in a Montessori classroom were developed by her more than 100 years ago and allow children to develop the tools needed for creative learning as well as stimulate mental and manual agility.  Because each child works individually with the materials and at his own pace, there is no competition in the Montessori classroom.  Maria Montessori believed that learning should occur naturally and joyfully at the proper moment for each individual child.

“The preschool project is going to benefit our community in many ways including: creating growth of committed Jewish families in the Orange County Jewish community; fostering traditional Jewish values and behaviors in our children; using Montessori tools and Jewish learning to guide our children and their families to become leaders of our community and good decision makers, according to Robyn Farber, Olam Jewish Montessori volunteer.  “The teaching team is passionately and tirelessly trying to get the preschool off the ground and the doors open.  The teaching team consists of three women.”

Isabelle Harris was born and raised in Lyon, France and made aliyah to Israel in 1990.  She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Jerusalem-based David Yellin College of Education in 1994, which accredited her to teach infants through eight-year-olds.  She was a lead teacher for seven years in Israel, working as a pre-school, kindergarten and first grade teacher.  She has also taught French and Hebrew at the Berlitz School.  Harris is completing her Montessori training at the Montessori Teacher Academy and Center for Jewish Montessori and meets the California Title 22 requirements for preschool director.

Sonya Neutel was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where she graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  After completing her degree she lived in Israel, where she was enrolled in the WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students) program and worked as an intern at the University of Jerusalem.  She was a travel consultant for 17 years and is a nurturing mother of three children who went back to school to further her education as a teacher.  Neutel completed her teaching internship from 2009 to 2010 at the Monarch Bay Montessori Academy and is in the process of completing her training as a certified Montessori teacher from the Montessori Teacher Academy in Dana Point as well as at the Center for Jewish Montessori.

Symone Sass has a BA in psychology from UCLA and a master’s degree in social work, specializing in children, youth and families, from Cal State Long Beach.  She worked as a children’s social worker in the adoptions division of LA County Department of Children’s Services and also has varied experience working with children in the areas of special education, ESL and social skills development in the elementary public school environment.  She completed an internship at the Monarch Bay Montessori Academy from 2009 to 10 and will be graduating from the Montessori Teacher Academy as a fully certified Montessori Teacher in 2011.  She is the mother of three children.

Contact the teaching team at olam@bethjacobirvine.org.

University Synagogue Announces Adventure in Jewish Education

Registration is now being accepted for Orange County’s first ever camp school program – a unique “out of the box” Jewish educational experience.

Carol Richmond, M.S. Ed., educational therapist, VP of education for University Synagogue, emphasized that Jewish children take a great deal from their Jewish camp experiences and that those experiences impact their choices later in life.  According to Richmond, “We are unrolling a special new education program in September that hasn’t been done anywhere in OC or in very many places in the country.  We are offering it to our religious school families but then are planning to open it up to others in the community if they so choose.”

According to University Synagogue’s education director, Sue Penn, “Studies indicate that children who learn through carefully constructed experiences retain substantially more content for longer periods of time.  Jewish camp experiences provide just one example of the longevity and importance of this type of affective, integrated and experiential learning in creating a sustainable Jewish identity.”

Camp organizers promise a program that includes values-based education and hands-on dynamic learning at a brand new local state-of-the-art camp, which includes swimming, zip lines, rope courses and archery.  All of these activities will be woven into the teaching of Jewish values and traditions.

Beginning in September 2011, students will meet one Sunday each month for a full day of instruction and fun.  Hebrew will be integrated into the program.  Additional Hebrew, if necessary, will be tailored to meet each child’s individual learning style.

This program is open to all students entering 2nd to 8th grade and a CIT program is available for students entering 9th to 12th grade.  There are a limited number of spaces available for this new program.

University Synagogue is also pleased to offer a $360 introductory first year synagogue membership for families new to our congregation who enroll in any of University Synagogue’s educational programs, including the Adventure in Jewish Education Camp School as well as the excellent and innovative Religious School and Pre-School.

Contact Religious School Director, Sue Penn, at (949) 533-3535 ext. 241 or Spenn@Universitysynagogue.org to register for these programs or for more information.

Shir Ha-Ma’alot Receives Prestigious Accreditation

Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot’s religious school recently received the prestigious accreditation certification from the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE).  The school was cited for its outstanding ability to reflect the spirit of Reform Judaism in its learning programs.  Less than 30 of almost 900 Reform Jewish religious schools in the US have received this certification.

The 2 ½-year evaluation process culminated in a two-day site visit where classroom observation and interviews of students, teachers and parents were conducted.  NATE’s accreditation co-chair, Marlene Myerson, said, “It is clear that education is a priority at Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot.  The school program is a superb one, led by dedicated and committed staff who care about their students and each other.  The congregation’s warm and friendly culture is apparent.”

Rabbi Richard Steinberg and Marisa Kaiser, education director, provide the leadership for the school.  In the final report, Kaiser was cited as being “energetic, creative and passionate about Jewish education”.  Kaiser remarked, “Our goal is to find teachers who love what they do and will have the largest impact on our students by making Judaism engaging and active.”

For more information about Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, contact Stacy Bleiweis at (949)857-2226 or visit www.shmtemple.org.

New Preschool To Start at Chabad of RSM

Chabad Jewish Center of RSM has announced the opening of a preschool beginning this fall.  This will be the only Jewish preschool in the Rancho/Mission Viejo area.

The preschool will be directed by Rochel Kantor, a warm, creative and vibrant childhood educator with more than 15 years of experience.

Please call (949) 264-6930 or email rochel@jewishrsm.com for questions, to register interest or to set up a meeting to learn more about the preschool program.

JCC Holds Free Professional Development Seminar for Orange County
Jewish Early Childhood Educators

The Merage Jewish Community Center is offering a free three-day professional development seminar series for Orange County Jewish early childhood educators.  It will focus on the topic, “Reflective Teaching and Learning in Jewish Childhood Education.”  The JCC offers this opportunity for continuing professional early childhood education at no cost to the participants, thanks to a program grant from Jewish Federation & Family Services Orange County.  The seminar series will be held April 30, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; May 1, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and June 19, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Using a community of practice model, the goal is to spark educators’ curiosity and passion as they discard a one-size-fits-all philosophy in favor of a reflective, deeply child-centered teaching practice.

This new professional development series emphasizes reflection, collaboration, and transformation.  The approach is based on “Kehillah Kedosha,” a community of practice model, where participants come together in small groups and commit to engage in dialogue with the focused goal of improving their teaching abilities and skills.  The series will:

* Develop, create and sustain a “Kehillah Kedosha” from a group of individuals who commit to working together and engaging in deeply reflective dialogue towards a shared focus of improving their knowledge, skills and practice.

* Help develop and cultivate the next generation of Jewish early childhood educators in Orange County.

* Motivate early childhood education providers and educators to engage fully in their own learning and to become creative and critical thinkers.

* Create memorable hands on experiences

* Inspire enthusiasm for life-long learning

* Encourage intellectual vitality that will engage hearts as well as minds

The facilitators for the program are Margie Carter, Deb Curtis, Mark Horowitz and Peter Blair.  Margie Carter is a co-founder of Harvest Resources, an organization that provides speakers, resources and training for early childhood educators.  Deb Curtis consults with programs to help grow reflective practices among teachers and has co-authored seven books with Carter.  Mark Horowitz is the Jewish Community Centers of America director of early childhood education and was the founding executive director of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI).  Peter Blair is the Merage JCC early childhood education director and has received a Covenant Foundation fellowship for leadership in Jewish early childhood education.

For more information or to register for the seminar, contact Peter Blair, Merage JCC Director of Early Childhood Education at (949) 435-3400, extension 221, or peterb@jccoc.org.

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