JCC Chicago Announces Winners Of Spirit Of Sheva Awards
Eight Early Childhood Educators honored with esteemed award for making a difference in and out of the classrooms
NORTHBROOK, IL (September 18, 2023) — JCC Chicago proudly honors eight Early Childhood educators with the esteemed Spirit of Sheva awards. These nominated educators have gone above and beyond in their roles on behalf of the children and families they serve and were selected from Early Childhood community nominations based on the seven lenses of Sheva—an approach that recognizes that in order to offer excellence, you must hire and support excellence in your educators. With Sheva, learning is a team effort between staff, children, and their families. This year’s winners include Amy Burke (JCC Chicago Early Childhood at Beth Emet), David Feinberg (Florence G. Heller JCC), Dorrie Levin (Jacob Duman Early Childhood Center), Nechama Perkins (Bernard Horwich JCC), Jennifer Ricciotti (Bernard Weinger JCC), Ellen Salk (JCC Chicago Early Childhood at Am Shalom), Elizabeth (Lisa) Shutan (Bernard Weinger JCC), and Elizabeth Zetley (‘Z’ Frank Apachi).
JCC Chicago’s commitment to “Growing Good Kids” begins in the early stages of a child’s development where teachers nurture and inspire the littlest of learners, playing a huge role in who today’s young people will become. The J’s passion and privilege is to provide children, ages six weeks to five years old, with endless learning opportunities, love, and support while nurturing their skill development. JCC Chicago is the largest provider of Jewish early childhood in the country, serving nearly 700 young children across seven sites throughout the Chicagoland area in East Lakeview, Evanston, West Rogers Park, Northbrook, Glencoe, and Lake Zurich near Buffalo Grove, Long Grove, and Vernon Hills.
As evidenced by the teacher nominations, JCC Chicago educators find new and innovative ways of helping children connect with concepts, and make new discoveries, large and small, about their worlds, each other, and themselves. For example one winner’s nomination detailed, “Jen (Ricciotti) crowned each student ‘teacher of the week’ and the children shared presentations, books, art projects, experiments, costumes, and media (e.g., songs and videos) with the class. Jen embraced each student’s enthusiasm and leaned in, using each topic as a platform for a week’s worth of kindergarten readiness activities, all founded in the subject matter at hand. Half a year later, our daughter still talks fondly about the week that she taught her class about outer space (which included her classmates stretching out over the school’s longest hallway to create a scaled model of the distance between the planets). Jen trusted them all to take up the mantle of teaching and demonstrated to them that the things they love—from the weather, monkeys, and food to airplanes, dentistry, and New York City—are all worth learning about…together.”
Additionally, educators and the J’s full-time social services team are focused on social-emotional learning to build resiliency, manage their emotions, feel, and show empathy for others, establish healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions. In this warm and caring community, JCC Chicago Early Childhood helps each child develop a strong framework to build on for a lifetime love of learning.
In early 2023, JCC Chicago Early Childhood signed a new Union agreement offering significant pay increases and expanded benefits for early childhood educators. Raising the ceiling on early childhood teacher pay and benefits is both essential to JCC Chicago’s communities and an example of what is possible for early childhood centers through the JCC Movement and beyond. Expanded benefits include an increase in sick days, free mental health services and six weeks of paid parental leave which now covers foster child care.
“At JCC Chicago, investing in our educators is a priority,” said Megan Rachal, the J’s Chief Human Resources Officer. “Teachers shape and improve children’s lives every day and we know the best way to invest in students is to first invest in our teachers. With a teacher shortage across the country, we are proud the JCC Chicago teachers on average stay within their school for 7+ years as they are committed to the success of their students.”
Importantly, JCC Chicago educators have access to professional development opportunities that strengthen and enhance their expertise. Early Childhood professional development at JCC Chicago is always free and consists of 15 hours of training provided internally annually. JCC Chicago works closely with the JUF Early Childhood Collaborative to offer additional professional development opportunities, as well as help teachers to take on more responsibility and become lead teachers.
In recent years, educators also have had the opportunity to travel to Israel to learn about outdoor education, and this year there will be trips to Italy to see the Reggio Emilia program at work where it was founded, The teachers’ work continues as they explore how to bring the lessons from these enriching experiences to their staff, children, and families back in Chicago.
Addie Goodman, President & CEO of JCC Chicago said, “We are thrilled to celebrate eight incredible educators that embody our commitment to growing good kids. JCC Chicago Early Education focuses on meeting each child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs through wrap around education and social services support to build a strong foundation for lifelong success. I am passionate about and deeply committed to the field of early childhood and deeply appreciative of our stellar teachers and educators.”
For more information about the Spirit of Sheva Awards or JCC Chicago Early Childhood, visit www.jccchicagoearlychildhood.org.
About JCC Chicago:
JCC (Jewish Community Centers) Chicago, founded in 1903 and rooted in Jewish values, offers a life-affirming journey fostering a connected, inclusive community from birth through senior years. With a focus on growing good kids and building connections, it is JCC Chicago’s mission to strengthen the Jewish community, from generation to generation. Today, JCC Chicago serves a diverse population of more than 65,000 community members who learn, grow, and thrive through early childhood, day and overnight camps, teen, adult and family offerings, fitness and wellness, aquatics & sports and special events and happenings year-round. For more information on JCC Chicago programming and commitment to community visit, www.jccchicago.org.