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Program Spotlight: Early Childhood School

The Early Childhood School has served many families inside and outside of the Jewish community of Cincinnati. We sat down with Early Childhood School Director Rena Hannon about what makes the school so unique.

Rena Hannon

What is special about the Early Childhood School?

We know that providing early learning opportunities for children is crucial for their social/emotional development as well as their long-term academic achievement. Our teachers create a warm, caring and nurturing environment for children, which allows them to thrive. We use a curriculum that teaches through play and imagination, which is age appropriate and targeted to meet the needs of each individual child. The children receive a high-quality education, which allows them to be successful beyond the ECS into their elementary school years.

For many families, becoming a part of our ECS is also how they first engage in the Jewish community. Especially for interfaith and non-Jewish families, we can provide an introduction to Jewish values and holiday celebrations that they wouldn’t receive in other preschool environments.

We also have a unique environment for children, where they experience activities that are not part of the daily program at other schools, like Gym with Mr. Mike, swim lessons and Afternoon Enrichment programs including outdoor play with Rock, Sticks and Dirt and Music classes with Devra.

How does the ECS help support our mission of connecting people so that they live happier and fuller lives?

We are passionate about connecting families and children together through our events, parent partnerships, and support that we offer to one another. We create many opportunities for families to connect with one another, through events like our Fall Fling, where families enjoy a cookout at the ECS, and our Breakfast in the Sukkah to celebrate the Sukkot holiday. This spring, we enjoyed a Gardening with Grandparents event, where our grandparents helped us decorate pots and plant beautiful flowers.

We are also proud of our parent partnerships. We have an active and engaged parent committee where we discuss issues pertinent to the operation of our school, engage parents in supporting and showing appreciation to our teachers, and get input from parents on what we are doing well and what can be improved.

The connections we create through our school last a lifetime! We’ve seen friendships form between families as their children enter our program as infants and continue as they move into elementary school and beyond. Our ECS really provides an entry point for these families to engage with the Jewish community and with each other as their families grow.

How will the expansion impact families on the waiting list?

We are thrilled that our current expansion will allow 22 infant and toddler children to join the ECS from our waitlist. There are many families that have been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time and are overjoyed to have the opportunity to join our ECS family.

Our waitlist continues to be lengthy, and we are hopeful that we can embark on a much larger expansion of our ECS facility in the next couple of years to further build our capacity to serve even more of these families. There is a real shortage in Cincinnati and nationwide of quality childcare, with many programs shutting down during COVID. We know that providing this entry point to engaging in the broader Jewish community is crucial for the strength of the community long term.

What makes you get up every morning and want to come to work?

So many aspects of working at the ECS make me excited to come to work each day. Watching children achieve milestones, while they learn through play, is an amazing site to see. Creating strong parent partnerships and relationships is something that I truly value; it is an honor to have an opportunity to watch children grow and flourish in our care. I enjoy engaging personally with so many families, and it warms my heart when a child asks me to read them a bedtime story over FaceTime or a parent sends me photos during their family vacation. I am also filled with joy and pride watching our phenomenal teachers at the ECS interact and engage with each child every day. The ECS is a special place where we create memories and connections for a lifetime, and I feel lucky to be a part of the magic.

Cross training. Young woman exercising with dumbbells.

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