When parents of preschoolers drop their kids at The J each morning, they’re bound to see Mindye Mannel sitting in the lobby with Early Childhood Director Norma Cahen.
That’s no accident. According to Mannel, the parent-staff relationship is “vital” to child development. This way, the two administrators have daily contact with the parents as they enter the building.
It’s that type of relationship Mannel hopes to nurture in her new position – director of camp, youth and families services. She starts March 13.
“I value that relationship, Mannel said on her contact with parents. “That relationship is vital in running family programs. That’s the reason Norma and I sit in that lobby every day.”
Getting to know the parents kids in camp and teen activities will take longer, she noted (there are considerably more of them), but she plans to do it.
Mannel is no stranger to teen and camp programs.
She went to Camp Rickaree as a girl and worked at JCC camps in high school and college. She then taught preschool at The Temple. She’s been the early childhood assistant director for two years.
A graduate of the University of Louisville, where she earned a master‘s degree in education and studied educational psychology, she also spent time in the social service sector, working at Safe Place Services and Home of the Innocents.
She also knows what it’s like to be a parent with kids in camp.
“My children went to the camp here, so I’ve not only been a camper and a staffer in camp, but a parent as well. I’ve sat in every seat.”
As director of camp and youth services, which oversees activities for children in grades kindergarten and up, as well as BBYO and other teen programming, Mannel said she wants to bring “strength” to her staff and “structure” to the activities.
“I believe education and structure are the keys to keeping children active and stimulated,” she said. “If they’re not active, then they’re looking for mischief. So engagement is the key to keeping them happy, and the parents happy.”
Since the summer camp program at The J is already set, she expects few changes early on, but they’re may be some tinkering if she spots a need.
“I’m the type who likes to come in, do a lot of observing, see what works and what needs tweaking,” she said.
Cahen said she’s sorry to lose her assistant and fellow lobby sitter, but she expects good things from her in her new job.