Welcome to Temple Beth-El’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC), where we are committed to building an inclusive and diverse Jewish community of learners. We serve children 18 months to 5 years of age in a nurturing environment that recognizes and respects each child and family as valued and active participants in social, emotional, and educational development.
As a Jewish preschool, we emphasize the richness and joy of Judaism within a diverse and multicultural world. We value each family as each one begins to explore their own family’s relationship to Jewish life. Celebration, joy and connection to Jewish life in the community are a fundamental part of the school’s curriculum. Our preschool benefits from being housed in one of the nation’s most prominent synagogues, and Jewish community values underpin our approaches.
The ECEC is widely recognized as a model of excellence for Jewish early childhood programs throughout the country. The school strives to stimulate each child’s individual sense of curiosity and foster a love of learning in a seamlessly integrated secular and Jewish environment. In 2005, the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) chose our school, along with only a small number of other learning institutions throughout the country, to implement a new synergy of authentic and relevant Jewish values with the best in progressive education. Our teaching methodologies are modeled after and inspired by the world-renowned early childhood educational system of Reggio Emilia, an approach named for the town in Italy in which it was founded. The Reggio approach to learning is based upon the following principles:
The Image of the Child
Children are capable, competent, and creative thinkers who bring a wealth of knowledge to their educational setting. The many languages that children use, such as drawing, dramatic play, sculpting, painting and music, are creative ways through which they express themselves. Our teachers have been trained to recognize and utilize these languages to build upon each child’s strengths and existing knowledge. Our approach strongly supports the development of each of these languages in young children, which constitutes what the Reggio approach calls the “hundred languages of children.”
The heart of the curriculum originates from the children’s ideas and interests. Once their interest is captured, it is pursued. Because children create their knowledge from prior experiences and through current exploration, their interests continually deepen with ongoing investigation. During this constructivist approach to learning, projects and topics of study can be short term or long term, and evolve over time, as children’s curiosity, interests and ideas evolve. Inquiry and problem-solving are a major focus of the school. We provide an atmosphere where children, through the media of play, art, music, drama, creative movement and personal expression, can grow and develop as independent, loving people. The ECEC is a safe, nurturing, non-pressured environment where inquiry, exploration, communication and discovery are encouraged and cultivated under the supervision and guidance of highly trained and certified early childhood professionals. Each classroom is designed to encourage and promote personal explorations and to support each child’s independent emerging learning process. We foster respect for self and others, autonomy, competence in all areas of development and a lifelong love of learning.
The Role of the Teacher
Our highly trained teachers work collaboratively with each other, both in the classroom and the school. Teachers value and support children’s ideas and create opportunities for small-group discussion with children throughout the day. Teachers observe and listen closely to children, so that they can plan for ways to extend their learning together. Our teachers use photographs and children’s dialogue to document the learning, enabling each child to revisit the learning process.
The Role of Parents and Families
Our families are actively involved, and we emphasize collaborative relationships among parents, teachers and children. Families are highly respected and valued in each classroom, creating a strong bond and community within the school. Family members are encouraged to participate in the classroom and school, and are often invited to share their hobbies, talents or profession with the children. Many topics for future discussions result from these visits.
Our approach understands that the environment is the child’s third teacher, and we have intentionally designed each space to be a warm and inviting place for both children and adults. Teachers capitalize on natural light, inviting children to paint, draw and experience changes in the light. Many plants and natural materials are found everywhere in the school, inspiring children to interact with them. Children’s artwork and documentation panels are beautifully displayed on the walls throughout the school. Our pre-Kindergarten program meets or exceeds all New York State and Great Neck Public Schools learning standards. All of our graduating pre-K students are well prepared, academically, emotionally and socially, to excel in the K-12 system. Play is valued as an important and necessary opportunity for children to construct and shape an awareness of and connection to their social, emotional, physical, cognitive and creative abilities. Our school allows and encourages children to joyfully engage in the process of learning and truly have fun. A visit to the school will demonstrate how dynamic and exciting early childhood learning can be.
Temple Beth-El’s Early Childhood Education Center is fully accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accreditation provides parents with third-party assurance that our center provides a safe and nurturing environment that promotes the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of young children in accordance with NAEYC’s Criteria for High-Quality Early Childhood Program standards. For more information on the stringent criteria for NAEYC accreditation, visit NAEYC at www.naeyc.org.
Temple Beth-El proudly recognizes the achievements of the ECEC as one of only a dozen schools throughout the country selected by the Jewish Early Childhood Education Initiative (JECEI) as a Vanguard School. Learn more at www.jecei.org.
Temple Beth-El’s Early Childhood Education Center is licensed by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
In October of 2023, Karen Wasserman assumed the position of Director of Early Childhood Education. Since 2005, she has been an Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) teacher, spending most of that time in Pre-K classrooms. She has also been director of our summer program for the past three years.
“Engaging our young children in new learning, helping to build resilience and critical thinking, and enhancing social-emotional development are chief among my goals as morah, and as director. I look forward to the opportunity to work with all of the teachers and classrooms, and to support and guide the wonder and beauty that motivates all of us each day,” says Karen.
Karen has always been committed to bringing joy into the lives of children. Prior to teaching, she worked in the toy industry and brand management for children’s intellectual properties. She raised her children here in Great Neck, and they had the privilege of attending E.M. Baker School and graduating from Great Neck North Middle and High Schools. They became Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth-El. She and her husband are also graduates of the Great Neck Public Schools system, and continue to enjoy being part of the Great Neck community.
Our professional staff members have been carefully selected for their early childhood educational background, teaching experience and sensitivity to the individual needs of the young child. They provide a loving attitude and offer warmth and understanding as well as skillful guidance to each child.
Weekly enrichment activities are provided by music and creative movement specialists, the clergy and/or the director.
The staff is trained in first aid, medication administration training and CPR.
Our Parent Teacher Council
The PTC is comprised of parents, teachers and lay leaders from the synagogue and school community who work together to make decisions and provide ongoing support for the school. Our families are energetic and full of valuable ideas and insights that fully enhance the daily activities, and collaborate to create exciting programming throughout the school year.
Useful Online Resources
Early childhood development and education
https://www.naeyc.org/resources/position-statements/dap/principles (DAP-developmentally appropriate practice)
Family and parenting
Health and Wellness
The Early Childhood Education Center is open to registration for all ages on a space available basis, with priority given to the children of Temple Beth-El members and the siblings of children currently enrolled in school. ECEC follows the Great Neck Public Schools and Jewish holiday calendars. We offer a Before-School Program, an After-School Enrichment Program as well as Extended Hours.
Temple Beth-El of Great Neck is conveniently located at the corner of Middle Neck and Old Mill Roads.
Our address is:
5 Old Mill Road, Great Neck, NY 11023