My name is Courtney Jacobson – I am the Interim Director of the Early Learning School (ELS) and Director of Camp Shai. I am also a Denver native, so I have been able to call the JCC Denver “my J” for a long time. I have been working at the JCC for more than four years at Camp Shai, but have only been in the school since August – nearly all of my professional experience was working with elementary-aged children, so I was naturally a little apprehensive about working with a much (much) younger audience. During this school year, I have held more babies, changed more diapers, and heard more giggles and coos than all of my years combined. I have also grown to love working with such little children and deeply respect the heart our teachers show each and every day.

One of the major downsides of Covid is that we have to close off our campus as much as possible to minimize contamination, which means that parents are not allowed to enter the building even to drop their children off. For many new families, they have never been inside the school or set foot inside their child’s classroom. We have worked hard to create a virtual community – and it has been meaningful – but, also not without its challenges. On a lighter note, we have been told that picking up and dropping off a toddler at the ELS is faster than picking up groceries with ClickList – and, we’ll take that feedback as a win!

I am so grateful for the level of trust parents have in the school and in our teachers to care for and teach their children in a space they are not allowed to enter. We do not take it for granted.

One of the most frequent questions I get is “what do you guys do in there everyday?” and I have learned to interpret this as “with all of the limitations Covid presents, does it still feel like school?” If you were to walk the halls of our school, you would see artwork (documentation) hanging on the walls of the projects students just completed and hear songs and counting games as classrooms transition to the yard or the tumble room. If you walked in to Room 101, you would see blue plastic underwater scenes hung on the walls as that class learns about the ocean. If you walked in to Room 103, you would see a projector where students explore light and shadows, and even Zoom in an art instructor for a “live” art activity, on occasion. In room 114, our infants are transitioning to solid foods, exploring mirrors, and learning to crawl. Our teachers work so hard to give their very best to their students and keep parents connected (mainly digitally right now) so they can also learn and grow with their child.

Even though it has been an unpredictable year – with so much uncertainty – in so many ways, I think that it has brought out the best in everyone in the school. While we are so looking forward to getting back to normal, this has been an incredibly meaningful and heart-felt year in the school.

Courtney Jacobson
Interim Director, ELS
Director, Camp Shai