Our Venture of the Month features a congregation that has gone through a systemic change process while working with Jewish Learning Venture. This month, we are featuring Temple Sinai’s Ann Newman Preschool and Infant Center. Director of Early Childhood Education Beth Rabinowitz talked about the importance of recognizing and appreciating staff, as well as the significant role the Directors’ Learning Council has played in her work.
JLV: Please describe the change, innovation, or transformation your organization has achieved:
TS: In order to create a positive work setting for our teachers, we’ve initiated some staff appreciation activities. One idea I implemented took place on the first day of school. Everyone received a lottery ticket that had comments such as “You’re worth a million bucks” or “I hit the lottery with you.” I gave out a jar of honey and an apple at Rosh Hashanah with a note that said have a Sweet New Year.
Back To School Night is the perfect event to show case how hard our teachers work all year. One year I did the “Academy Awards of Teachers” and this year I themed the night “Good Fortune” with fortune cookies and Chinese take-out boxes.
Recently I asked each teacher to fill out The Language of Appreciation Quiz. This really helped me to understand how each person likes to be appreciated. Some are motivated by affirmation, whereas others thrive on quality time or tangible gifts. Knowing more about your staff, as an individuals, can help you create better relationships. I have heard this many times in our Directors Council.
JLV: How did Jewish Learning Venture help you achieve what you described above?
TS: Jewish Learning Venture’s Director’s Learning Council (headed by Ellen Walters) inspired us to try a great new activity: Secret Friend Week. Each teacher picks a name and gives out small gifts for a week. Gifts might range from a nice card to a chocolate bar. We ask the students and parents to deliver the gifts and the families love it. At the end of the week we have the big reveal. This idea (and several that I use) have come directly from the Director’s Learning Council. When you combine JLV, DVAEYC and a talented group of Early Childhood Educators, we have an occasion to learn from each other. This is an opportunity not only to learn from our colleagues but some of the best early childhood trainers in the area.
JLV: What words of wisdom would you share with other organizations who are interested in making a similar change?
TS: Get involved in the Director’s Learning Council! Our positions as early childhood educators extend outside of our schools. We are advocates for early childhood, we are community members, and we are professionals in an ever-changing field. It is important that we continuously learn from organizations like Jewish Learning Venture. If we want to be seen as professionals and strive for best practices, then we need to be updated on the latest research and regulations in early childhood. The benefit of meeting with colleagues at JLV through the Directors Council allows us to feel comfortable to ask for help and gather new ideas to improve our schools. It also creates a trusting bond between other professionals. When I have a chance to spend time with my colleagues during the Directors Council I always come back to my community feeling proud and energized as I walk back into my school.