New Leaders of the ECE Network

Posted on 04/27/2020 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: Jewish Schools & Educational Services

The Jewish Early Childhood Network (JECN) Welcomes Two New Co-Chairs!

Jenny Tettner-Gugig, director of the Sandra & Lawrence Bronson Early Childhood Development Center of the Michael-Ann Russell JCC and Katy Horowitz, director of Gan Katan, in North Beach. Joy Schandler, CAJE’s Director of Early Childhood Educationinterviewed them for this article below.

Why did you go into the field of Jewish early childhood education (ECE)?

Jenny: I had been a middle school teacher previously, and it was during my first experience teaching in ECE that I fell in love with young children. The emotional connection with the children and knowing the impact you have in their development is remarkable.

Katy: I fell into this field quite by accident at 18 years old living in Brooklyn. I was immediately hooked and have been working in early childhood in some capacity for the past 20 years.

What education did you pursue to attain your positions?

Jenny: I attended Andres Bello Catholic University in Venezuela where I received a BA in pedagogical sciences. I got my Master's degree in Teaching and Learning from Nova University.

Katy: I went to the London School of Jewish Studies to qualify as an early childhood practitioner. That is the British equivalent of a degree in early childhood education.

How did you begin your journeys to become an Early Childhood Director?

Jenny: I first started working at the MAR JCC as a teacher in the Early Childhood Center. I became Assistant Director of the program in 2010 and was offered the Director position in 2012 when the Director retired. It was an organic trajectory.

Katy: I moved with my husband and children to Miami almost 9 years ago with a director's job lined up. The school moved at the 11th hour and the commute would’ve been too difficult. So, on a whim, I started a playgroup in my house with my 2-year-old daughter and a friend’s daughter who was the same age. The playgroup took off and is now a preschool and the beginnings of an elementary with almost 100 children. So I am the head of school by default!

What are the goals of your ECE program?

Jenny: The Sandra & Lawrence Bronson Early Childhood Development Center strives to offer quality Jewish early childhood education to its families and continues to improve, change, and innovate. We see children as independent and competent learners. We encourage inquiry-based learning through offering education provocations. As the children mature, we encourage project-based learning. All of this is accomplished by establishing strong emotional connections with the children and their families and under the umbrella of Jewish values and connection to Israel.

Katy: Gan Katan’s goals stem from a very personal perspective. I am the mother of a child with ADD who did not fit the mold of traditional school. At Gan Katan, the goal has always been to be a school for every child no matter the challenge and a place where individuality is celebrated. We have chosen to stay small and bespoke with only 15 children per age and small ratios of teacher to child so we can stay focused on leaving no child behind or stunted in their growth and learning.

Why do you feel Early Childhood Education is important?

Jenny and Katy: Research shows that the early years, from birth through 5 years old, are the critical time for brain development that ensures children grow to their fullest potential. It is also the time to instill a love of learning based on curiosity and self-expression. Quality early childhood education is also important for families. At the MAR JCC, many parents are first generation Americans living in the US and do not have immediate family here. Even when families have relatives nearby, research shows that it is within the ECE that parents establish friendships with other parents, friendships that turn into lifelong relationships as their children grow.

What are your goals for the JECN (Jewish Early Childhood Network)?

Jenny: Emphasizing professional development through relevant learning needs to remain an essential focus of the JECN. The learning needs to be connected to Judaism and Jewish values. I am also passionate about professionalizing the field of early childhood education, which starts by providing salaries that are commensurate with a teacher’s training and expertise. I see this as a “social responsibility” of all institutions that provide early childhood education.

Katy: I joined the JECN 2 years ago and found it such a valuable resource. I think too often we see the other early childhood programs as competitors, but actually they are our greatest allies. This has become so apparent these past few weeks and the achdut/unity that has come from the JECN has been heartwarming and so uplifting during these difficult days! My primary goal for the JECN is for everyone to share their amazing abilities with each other and become a place where we teach each other and share our unique skill sets whilst listening and helping each other be the best educators with exceptional programs for the Jewish community of South Florida.

Mei’chayil l’chayil-- May these wonderful new Jewish Early Childhood leaders go from strength to strength and continue to enrich the ECE world in Miami-Dade!!! 

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