Dear JCC Community,

Today is a very special day for all of us in the Early Learning School (ELS), as it is the last day of the 2020-21 school year. When we think back on this past year, for so many of us it was tumultuous, but I will look back on this year with so much fondness too. I think most of our teachers, administrators, and parents would agree as well.

The teachers of the ELS showed so much dedication and heart as they created amazing experiences amidst the challenges of the COVID environment. They made school a real experience, even when it was a little scary to come to work each and every day. Though so many things could not be shared with parents in the ways we are used to sharing, they made it a memorable and meaningful school year nonetheless. Across the school, we took a deep dive to explore bugs, plants, the animals and activities in Australia, cameras and mirrors, and volcanoes. In fact, a toddler class and a preschool class explored volcanoes together (socially distanced, of course) and created and erupted a real-live volcano!

So many friendships have formed this year in spite of the restrictions we had to follow. Just this past week, we were able to get classes (parents and kids) together in an outdoor, socially distanced outdoor potluck that was especially meaningful because it was the first time parents, teachers, and students could all be together in the same space.

Since the initial shutdown in March 2020, Stephanie Leen, our Judaics Specialist, has been offering Zoom Shabbat Sing. Shabbat Sing has been a constant for the ELS and by using the power of Zoom, it created an amazing opportunity for families from all over (and grandparents, aunts, and family members) to join together as one e-community and celebrate Shabbat together.

In addition to Shabbat Sing, COVID also unleashed a new medium of teaching and connecting through technology. Major kudos to our teachers for their creativity to expand their teaching practice, which can be challenging already with such young learners. Many classrooms adapted to use technology as a window into their classroom and as an active teaching agent. Using technology, these classes created a unique opportunity for family members to see their child in their “element” at school – playing with their friends, seeing what classrooms look like, and redefining what community means. For example, one of our preschool rooms “visited” Uganda and interacted with children on that side of the globe, visiteda farm in Nebraska and took a tractor ride, and connected with family members of one student that live in a small city in Croatia. Family members and other schools also using Zoom (in the case of Uganda) have read their favorite stories to our students, had a dance party, and facilitated an art class all via Zoom.

We are grateful to our parents for trusting us with their child (ren) every day even when they were unable to enter the building. Furthermore, we are grateful to our incredible teachers for caring for each student as if he or she were their own child.

We are looking forward to our summer and fall sessions and all of the fun, excitement, and creativity they will bring.

With gratitude,

Courtney Jacobson
General Manager of Camps & Early Learning School