New School Year Starts at JCC Early Childhood Education

By Niki King

For parents and preschoolers alike, this week was a happy return to school at the JCC.

“Every morning in the car on the way to school Charley names all of her teachers and friends who she can’t wait to see when we get there. She literally talks about her teachers and friends every day. That makes me happy,” said Angie Ditsler, parent of two in JCC’s preschool.

Angie Hiland, assistant director of preschool, said the year kicked off well with more than 60 children enrolled in the preschool program.

For the first few weeks, teachers focus on everyone getting to know each other and the classroom, she said. Teachers make sure the kids understand the daily schedule to alleviate any anxieties they might have about what to expect.

“The first couple of weeks is all about giving them the tools to feel comfortable and in control of their day,” Hiland said.
To help families prepare for the school year, the early childhood education department hosted an open house Aug. 18, so everyone could meet their teachers, see the classrooms, bring in supplies and explore their new environment.

This year, the department welcomed a new director, Melissa Youngblood. She has more than 10 years of experience in early childhood education, most recently as the director of the Gordon Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Learning Center in Nashville.

Youngblood said this year she is particularly excited about the new weekly science curriculum that will be introduced to the five J-Tots classes. She and other classroom teachers recently returned from training where they learned simple, age-appropriate ways to expose kids to bigger science concepts, she said.

“In this day and age, rote memorization doesn’t cut it,” she said. “It’s the innovative thinkers who can think creatively outside of the box who are going to be the successful leaders in the future. Science and technology builds that type of thinking.”

After Rosh Hashanah, all of JCC’s early childhood classes will roll out a new program called Discover CATCH, which will introduce children to healthy lifestyle habits.

Hiland said there are only a few slots left for incoming children, mostly in the one- and two- year-old programs. For more information on enrollment, contact Hiland at 238-2716 or ahiland@jewishlouisville.org.

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