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From preschool teachers to Jewish educators

“When I started the Gratz program, I thought of myself as a preschool teacher. Now I think of myself as a Jewish Educator.”Amanda Mahan

In another Bay Area first, after two years of rigorous coursework and seminars, a cohort of 11 teachers from Jewish preschools in the Bay Area are receiving their certificates in the Gratz College Certificate in Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI) program. The teachers are celebrating their achievements at a graduation event, known as a siyyum at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on September 22.

The graduates represent eight Jewish preschools in the Bay Area. Their studies have included Jewish Thought, Bible, and Spirituality, along with special subjects in Early Childhood Education. Each class integrates both Jewish and Early Childhood Education so that the curriculum is seamlessly integrated for optimum learning by the children.

The goal of the program is to deepen the Jewish curriculum at the preschools within the framework of excellence in Early Childhood Education.

The teachers have seen big changes in their classrooms. One of our graduates stated: “My classroom reflects Jewish life in a very authentic and deep way, and is almost unrecognizable from when I began my studies at Gratz two years ago. I have a wealth of knowledge that I can now share with children and their parents.”

The featured speaker, Dr. Debbie Findling of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, will address the students and acknowledge them for their devotion to Jewish Education, and the Bay Area Jewish community. The graduates and their families, along with community leaders, will share the fruits of their learning through exhibits that reflect their work in their particular school.

Sponsored by The Early Childhood Education Initiative of the JCF , the program has brought the teachers together monthly to participate in a Community of Practice, as well as to attend one and two-day retreats over the two years. The face-to-face aspect of the program, which has proven to be invaluable to its success, has been funded by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and facilitated by Ellen Brosbe, the Early Childhood Education specialist at the Bureau of Jewish Education. The generous scholarships for the students were provided by the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the JCF.

The second cohort of the Gratz program begins in September 2011.

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