Supporting Early Childhood Educators Elevates Early Learning
By Liza Baron
The JCC’s Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) has been on a journey of excellence for a number of years, committed to the long-term exploration of the Reggio Emilia Approach and best practices in early learning. As a Sheva Lab Community for the Jewish Community Center Association, ECDC applies this constructivist approach to early learning through a Jewish lens.
Integral to the success of this approach is supporting our educators’ growth and lifelong learning. Over the years, we’ve learned that fostering our educators’ growth in the field inspires educators who are dedicated professionals who engage deeply in the vision, inquiry and powerful potential of children.
Our program, which serves 200 children from infants through pre-kindergarten in the JCC Squirrel Hill and South Hills facilities, is a recognized national leader in the field of early childhood education. Our school philosophy – “Inspired Exploration, Universal Values & Collaborative Journeys” – is the framework for everything we do.
Elevating the field of early learning is critical to this framework, and we are intentional with how we view and what we offer to educators. We strive to make teaching in the JCC’s ECDC a viable and appealing early career choice in the educational field, with opportunities to grow and make lasting contributions.
Our knowledgeable and dedicated educators put the needs of children first, and ongoing professional development provides opportunities for their continued investment in the social and emotional growth of the young citizens they serve.
We recognize the importance of trained and supported educators to our entire learning community of children and staff by creating a curriculum for professional development. We care about the well-being of our educators and staff by providing compensation that is well above average in the field. ECDC’s average hourly wage is 36% more than the average for child care workers in Pennsylvania; 100% of ECDC’s full time educators receive benefits.
Our journey requires transparency about our goals, our vision and our questions about how children learn. Simply put, we seek to create confident and engaged lifelong learners, and what better way to do this than to invest in the team of educators leading the way for our youngest citizens?
Our educators have told us that they value the intentional curriculum and the professional educational opportunities, and they feel that their thoughts and ideas are truly heard. “It’s very rewarding for me,” said Tracy Smith, veteran Assistant Educator at the JCC’s South Hills location, who added, “We also work hard to engage parents and create a partnership that prepares children for elementary school as well as life beyond the walls of any future classroom.”
Suzann Morris, Fellow within the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative, recently spoke about our efforts. “The JCC Pittsburgh is leading by example in putting their early childhood educators at the heart of their programs,” said “By prioritizing early childhood educators, the JCC can serve as a model for programs across the country. Policies around compensation and professional development like the JCC’s are important now, more than ever, as families both return to in-person work environments and need stable childcare for their children, and as new federal resources aimed at stabilizing childcare programs will be accessible to local communities.”
Evan Meindl, a lead educator in our Squirrel Hill location, recently returned to ECDC after a short stint working in marketing, during which he learned a lot about what he values on his professional journey. “I missed working with the children and with my co-workers, and in a place that valued my input and would invest in my growth. As a young adult, I’m discovering a lot about my interests and passions. Working in ECDC is a really good place for me to explore and develop in a number of areas, and I get to do it surrounded by a lot of joy.”
Liza Baron is Edward and Rose Berman Director of the JCC’s Early Childhood Development Center
To learn more about joining the JCC’s early learning family, please connect with Liza Baron ([email protected] or 412-697-3530). Interested applicants should have a desire to grow as a professional educator in a supportive environment; associate or four year degree in a related field, and a minimum of two years’ experience in a classroom is preferred.