Advancing Jewish Early Childhood Education through Coordination and Collaboration
Souce: Jim Joseph Foundation
Recognizing the unique opportunities for engagement and education of the population of young Jews (both adults and children!), the Jim Joseph Foundation has awarded grants to a variety of Jewish early childhood education initiatives. As the foundation’s grantmaking has evolved, a particular area of focus is educator training.
Jewish Resource Specialist (JRS) Program - Founded in 2012, JRS is a three-year program currently being piloted at five Jewish preschools in the San Francisco Bay Area. The model is built around a master teacher, already employed at the site, who takes on additional responsibility. The teacher becomes a Jewish pedagogic resource for colleagues at the school and for parents who are seeking advice and guidance about Jewish community choices for their family. By receiving training throughout the three years, engaging in a community of practice, and participating in ongoing mentoring, JRS educators themselves grow as professionals.
The Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI) - a joint program of the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and Hebrew Union College (HUC), also launched in 2012. JECELI is part of a broader educator training initiative – the Education Initiative – funded by the Foundation. It is a 15 month in-service professional learning program for new Directors of Early Childhood Education Centers or educators working towards a leadership position in a Jewish Early Childhood Education institution. The program is a unique partnership between the Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College with academic support from Bank Street College of Education. Over the course of JECELI, a cohort learns together during a spring orientation retreat, three ten day in-person seminars, including intensive academic study with faculty from JTS, HUC and Bank Street, in addition to extensive mentoring. This mentoring includes small group work and individual support at seminars, site visits of mentors to participants’ home institutions, as well as distance learning and conversations during the length of the program.
Both JECELI and JRS seek to deepen the Jewish learning of the educators. Each is designed to prepare Jewish educators to work with families to help develop strong connections to their Jewish communities and to nurture their children’s Jewish growth.
Both programs have a week-long Israel Seminar as a core pedagogic requirement for training of high quality Jewish early childhood educators. Since the participants of each initiative – and the individuals leading these programs – can benefit from learning together and sharing information, the programs combined participants in the Israel Seminar this year.
The Seminar provided an opportunity for these educators to learn about Israel and Israeli early childhood education practices, as well as to learn from each other. While JRS and JECELI have different target populations, unique curricular goals, and structure, the Israel experience demonstrates the value added when local and national initiatives align.