As parents, we know that after food, shelter, and safety, the most important thing we can give our children is an education. But what does that mean? At the Leonard and Syril Rubin Nursery school at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, that means encouraging curiosity, creativity, and exploration. It means fostering conversation, self-sufficiency, and confidence. And it means patiently allowing each individual child to get where they’re going on their own time.
Devin Zukofsky, Director of the Nursery School understands the hopes of prospective parents as well as the anxiety involved in the search for the perfect preschool. Read on for her Tips on the Search for the Perfect Nursery School.
Q1: Your school’s approach to learning is through hands-on experiences. Why is that your philosophy?
At our Nursery School, teachers and children create meaningful learning opportunities by allowing the children’s interests to come to life while ensuring all developmental milestones are achieved. We work hard to ensure that our children gain all of the skills and knowledge they need for today and for all of their tomorrows, in a tangible and exciting way. Research proves that children who learn through play and hands-on experiences become life-long learners because when learning is meaningful and fun, it lasts a lifetime!
Q2: In all of the school’s promotional materials you focus on being warm, child-centered preschool. Why the big focus on “warm”?
In our Nursery School, we pride ourselves on being a “home away from home” for our students, and that means providing a warm, nurturing, loving, and caring environment. At any point in the day at our school, you’ll see teachers and children exchanging high-fives or hugs, or watch deep conversations unfold amongst a group of children with their teacher sitting on the floor beside them. Our low student to teacher ratios allow us to meet the needs of all children with this individualized attention. We know that children are their most comfortable and confident when they are in a place where they feel loved and cared for (just like at home!), and we are proud to achieve this every day.
Q3: For parents who are new to the nursery school search, what things would you recommend they would be on the lookout for when deciding what school to send their child to?
I can so clearly remember embarking on the Nursery School search for my daughter years ago. When I was looking for a Nursery School, I was looking for a well-rounded preschool that could help strengthen my daughter’s development in all areas. I wanted a school that had an excellent curriculum that allowed my daughter to learn and grow every day, and I wanted to be sure I was seeing learning unfold through play, in meaningful and real ways, with the children’s interests leading the way. It was important to me to have a low student to teacher ratio with warm and loving teachers, and bright and inviting classrooms that were engaging and exciting for the children. It was also important to me that my daughter was in an environment rooted in Jewish values and tradition. After going on countless tours and open houses to see schools in action I realized that all of this could be found at the JCC.
Q4: The Nursery School and Kaplen JCC on the Palisades offer many opportunities for extra-curricular activities like dance and music. Why is that important?
As part of the Jewish Community Center, we are lucky to work with different departments and have the ability to expose children to different extra-curricular activities like: sports, music, swim, Judaics, cooking, art and more. Not only does this touch on all modalities of learning, but it is tons of fun too. We are also lucky to partner with the Seniors department here at the JCC, for a program we call “Grandfriends”. Each senior is assigned to a class, and they become the class grandma or grandpa for the year, visiting on a weekly basis and for special activities. It’s a beautiful intergenerational partnership, and adds such value to our classrooms.
Q5: As an educator yourself, what drew you to work at The Leonard and Syril Rubin Nursery School?
My daughter attended the JCC in the full day 2’s program while I continued teaching in the city. Living through her experience in such a warm and enriching environment, helped me realize that I wanted to make a change and strengthen my connection with this amazing community. I was lucky to be given the opportunity to become a Pre-K teacher and ultimately became the Director of this incredible Nursery School. I love being able to give back to the community that has given so much to my family and me.
Q6: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
I offer the opportunity to speak to anyone who is interested in hearing about all the wonderful learning experiences we have to offer. I welcome you to join us at our next open house on Friday, April 20th. As Walt Disney said, “Around here, we don’t look backwards for very long… We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” This describes our school perfectly and we invite you to join us on our journey.
Kaplen JCC on the Palisades 411 E. Clinton Ave, Tenafly 201-408-1439