How We’ve Evolved Over 30 Years
Back in 1991, I picked up the Daily Herald, and saw a “wanted ad” for a teaching position at Northwest Suburban JCC in Buffalo Grove. I can remember going to my interview all dressed up with my big 80’s hairstyle, that somehow made its way into the 90’s, and thinking this would be a great job for me while I earned my college degree. Little did I know that job that I thought would be a short chapter in my life ended up becoming a published novel! In what has now been a 30-year career at JCC Chicago, I am grateful to call this place my home.
I am currently an early childhood teacher with Jacob Duman Early Childhood Center at Lake County JCC. I never left the J because it became my family and a place where my values aligned perfectly with their philosophy. The people I’ve met along the way, whether it be co-workers, Early Childhood families or the children, have all brought something valuable to my journey to help shape me into a better teacher and an even better person.
As I have changed for the better, so too has the Early Childhood program at the J. Thirty years ago, teachers operated with the mindset that everything had to be perfect. From every craft, art piece, bulletin board, it had to be front and center! But now, the “perfect” bulletin board with pretty borders fades into the background and the children’s work shines through because we realized that nothing in life is perfect! We discovered that children learn and grow best by being able to create their own definition of “perfect.”
Understanding this concept has been incredibly important in how we run our classrooms and how we document new evidence of learning. For example, parents may ask, how is my child learning by playing? However, the question should be: what aren’t they learning through play? Our children are learning everything from math, science, taking turns, sharing, communication, coping skills, critical thinking, fine and large motor skills and more, through this new approach. Learning is constantly happening at the J.
Thirty years ago, it was unheard of that children could pour their own drinks from a water pitcher or actually use real glasses in the classroom. However, it turns out children can do that, and have always been capable and competent learners and that knowledge has taken flight. Teachers and parents have evolved and adapted given this new research in Early Childhood, and we now look at risk taking as a confidence builder and not an undesirable behavior.
When I step back and look at my career, I have seen the evolution in the classroom, and I am proud to know that my students have walked away with the confidence, knowledge and life skills to make them spectacular people. It boggles my mind knowing that the children in my very first four-year-old class are now in their thirties! In my head, I still feel like that 21-year-old teacher, but now, with 30 years of experience, and I am so glad it has been with JCC Chicago.
Jacob Duman Early Childhood teacher
Jackie Baker-Schupbach lives in Lake in the Hills with her husband of twenty years, Scott. She has two daughters, Katelyn and Emma. Katelyn attends Illinois State University in the hopes of becoming a special ed teacher, in memory of her sister Emma who sadly passed away in 2014. Emma’s spirit and memory is what continues to sustain Jackie in her profession. Jackie was fortunate to have both of her children attend the J since they were infants and go through the amazing program. She also has two pets, an adorable little dog named Cody who is 11 and a parrot named Jake, who fully talks and is 30 years old! In her thirty years with the J, she has had the privilege of participating in many exciting opportunities like CEELI (Chicago Early Engagement Leadership Initiative), where she was part of the Sparking Jewish Engagement Summit at the URJ Biennial Conference. She literally took part in the groundbreaking plans and helped create the outdoor classroom at Jacob Duman Early Childhood at Lake County JCC. She was also a part of the very first focus group the J had on implementing the Reggio approach. Her passion is and always will be to keep Jewish traditions and values thriving in our youngest learners even beyond the walls of the JCC.