Gan Ami Focuses on Leadership

September 30, 2014

By Deborah Carneol

Early childhood education has been a part of our JCC for the last 27 years.  Though our program has held numerous names and has been located many places, early childhood education at the JCC has always been top quality in our Milwaukee’s north shore. Under the new leadership team of Jenna Kalkman-Turner and Karee Bilsky, our Gan Ami Early Childhood Education Directors, and with support of Phyllis Heim, our Gan Ami Business Manager and Rabbi Shari Shamah, our Jewish Family Specialist, the JCC will be able to not only continue but also to grow that tradition of excellence, not only Whitefish Bay, but also at the Fred & Linda Wein Center for Gan Ami Early Childhood Education in Mequon.

Over the last few years we have learned through our Benchmarking surveys that the way to a quality school is through quality faculty.  Over the last year, Gan Ami has put an emphasis on high quality faculty to deliver high quality programming. 80% of our Gan Ami Faculty holds an advanced degree in early childhood education, child development, child psychology, elementary education, and educational psychology. We also have numerous faculty with teaching certifications or a two year specialized Associates Degree in early childhood education. 

Jenna and Karee hold degrees in early childhood education and are both graduates of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute – an elite fellowship in the early childhood education world. We have also identified and promoted five key teacher leaders, one for each age group at the Whitefish Bay site and one for Gan Ami Mequon.  These teachers will be a resource and lead learner for their fellow teachers. They not only have the education and experience, but also the passion for early childhood education. It is a combination of those three qualities that allows them to nurture and grow teachers at Gan Ami, so that our children and families receive the best possible education for young children in Southeast Wisconsin.

It has only been a few short months, but the investment in our faculty and our program is already paying off. We have already seen a higher retention rate amongst our faculty, which provides consistency and is important for our families. We’ve seen a higher quality classroom environment – not only in physical environment but in the social and emotional environment created for children.  We see it with the families that we serve. “Parents come to us seeking education and community,” said Associate Executive Director Peter Blair. “What excites me most about this year is that the quality of our early childhood educators, the dedication of our early childhood leaders, and the passion for building a community of learners, not just the children, but the parents and teachers as well. That passion for that lifelong learning, which is so much a part of Judaism, is beginning to translate into our children and families that we serve in our Gan Ami program.”

If you are looking for a program with small and intimate class sizes, a place where everyone knows everyone else’s names, and where teachers have deep meaningful relationships with families for decades, you will find that at both Gan Ami Early Childhood Education locations. There is a new unified feeling between Gan Ami Whitefish Bay and the Fred & Linda Wein Center for Gan Ami Early Childhood Education in Mequon. The leadership team over the last year has made a concerted effort to provide a unique but similar experience at both locations.  There is a new commitment to partnership, open communication, and ongoing support of both programs together.  This provides our families with an exceptional experience for our families.

Click here to learn about Gan Ami Early Childhood Education.