VOSJCC Sheva Center leaders

From left to right, Valley of the Sun JCC Early Childhood Center Director Rachel Wallach, ECC educators Malka Wolman and Mike Caro, and VOSJCC CEO Jay Jacobs celebrate the two educators' acceptance into the JCC Association of North America’s Sheva Center Leadership Institute. 

The Valley of the Sun JCC’s Early Childhood Center has something to brag about.

Two of the center’s educators, Mike Caro and Malka Wolman, are among 31 fellows who have been accepted into the JCC Association of North America’s inaugural Sheva Center Leadership Institute.

“We are incredibly excited to be incorporating the Sheva Center as part of our early childhood program,” said The J’s CEO Jay Jacobs. “Sheva, with its core elements as part of our program, will allow us to continue to sustain the best in early childhood education and reinforces our commitment to providing the very highest level of quality for the community.”

Sheva, which means seven in Hebrew, is considered a powerful number in Jewish thought and practice. According to the JCC Association, the institute will center on seven core principles of early care and education and contemporary and ancient texts.

The institutes’s main goal is to increase the number and quality of early childhood educators who are ready to take on more responsibilities and leadership in early care and education at JCCs across the nation. The fellows will focus on education practices in teacher recruitment, family satisfaction and retention of teachers and families in order to develop them as leaders in their field.

By joining forces with affiliated JCCs such as the VOSJCC, the institute is one of the best ways to support early education professionals in promoting and sustaining a top-notch early childhood Jewish education, according to the JCC Association.

The institute is funded through a $1.9 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, and builds on earlier investments by the Covenant Foundation, which founded the Sheva Covenant Directors Institute in 2014.

The creation of the Sheva Center Leadership Institute was announced in February 2016, but the concept was first developed by Mark Horowitz, the JCC Association’s vice president of early childhood education and family engagement, in 2013. Horowitz is now the director of the institute.

“When I first started at JCC Association, I spent a lot of time visiting JCCs and I realized that we needed to find a way that JCCs could have a unified voice of early childhood education … that we could be loud, that we could be proud and that we could make a difference,” Horowitz said in a JCC Association press release in 2016.

The three-year program includes six weeklong retreats and two international study tours through Israel and Reggio Emilia, Italy. In addition, the fellows will participate in monthly webinars between retreats.

“Malka and Mike are exceptional teachers and our staff is excited to learn from them as they bring back their new knowledge and passion over the next three years and we become a true Sheva school that honors children, parents and their teachers,” said Rachel Wallach, director of the The J’s Early Childhood Center. “It is exciting to think about the endless possibilities that this fellowship will bring not only to The J, but also to the entire community.” JN

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