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Meet Our Preschool Teachers

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Joan Morgenstern
Director of Early Childhood

Joan Morgenstern is the Director of Early Childhood Services at the Mandel JCC and also directs Playland Preschool Camp. She has more than 20 years of experience as an Early Childhood classroom teacher and school administrator. Joan is passionate about her work with young children and is committed to supporting parents as they meet the everyday challenges of rearing young children.

She received her certification in Early Childhood Education from Chatham College in Pittsburgh and her master’s degree in Supervision and Administration of Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York. Joan is an approved instructor for the state-initiated early childhood rating system called Step-Up-To-Quality.

 

 Liza Bloomfield
Early Childhood Program Supervisor

Liza Bloomfield has been in the field of Early Care and Education for more than seven years – she is beginning her fifth year teaching at the Mandel JCC.

Liza is excited about her two-year-old class. "I love the way toddlers think, behave and explore the world around them.  I enjoy working closely with parents too," she said.  Liza understands the importance of creating a warm and welcoming classroom environment for children and adults alike.

“The beauty of working with two-year-olds – it’s both serious and fun,” said Liza. "It’s serious because it lays the foundation for future learning and fun because it’s delightful to watch and support the children’s positive growth and development.”

Liza graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Human Development and Family Science. She obtained her Master’s degree in Jewish Education from Siegal College of Judaic Studies. Liza recently completed JECELI (Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute,) a two-year postgraduate program specifically designed to prepare talented teachers for Early Childhood leadership roles.

This past summer Liza completed her first season as teh Playland Camp Program Supervisor - a perfect segue into her new administrative role.  In addition to teaching two-year-olds this year, Liza will also be supporting and assisting the Early Childhood director.

Char Apanius

Char has been teaching at The J since 2008. She sees her teaching role as an opportunity to support and develop each child’s inborn curiosity and innate potential. Char’s personal passion for inquiry and discovery has been a guiding force in her own life – all of this is reflected in Char’s classroom which is immersed in nature and offers a variety of provocations to inspire creative exploration. Char’s background as an artist sets the foundation for her creative approach to working with children. Char conveys a message of respect for all children and their competency as meaningful learners – under her care, children are actively engaged, regularly inspired, and thoughtfully guided to build strong foundational skills.

Char lives in Moreland Hills with her husband Chris. They have four children – Cyrus, Avery, Thea, and Lily. She also lives with a revolving menagerie of pets! Char is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from The University of Cincinnati as a long distance learner. In her free time, Char enjoys gardening, cooking and most of all, pottery. Char has been an avid potter for over 20 years and although she enjoys many hobbies and pursuits, being a preschool teacher is Char’s most creative endeavor.

Lynne Berliner

Lynne Berliner’s tenure in the field of early care and education is long and extensive - she has been teaching preschool at The J since 1993. “I feel so fortunate to provide young children with both guidance and support during these formative years,” Lynne said. “Preparing children for life, not just future schooling, drives my professional passion. I approach each school year with great anticipation and excitement for what will unfold.”

Lynne’s interest in the arts, (of all kinds) permeates throughout her classroom. Each year she introduces her students to Eric Carle – a famous children’s author/illustrator. The children study his literature – and also practice the technique he used for illustrating his work. Not long after, colorful creatures flank the classroom walls with the children’s own unique creations! 

In her spare time, Lynne enjoys gardening, knitting, reading and spending time with friends and family. Lynne and her husband Irv live in Beachwood. They are the proud parents of three grown children (and a daughter-in-law) – all three Berliner children are graduates of the Mandel JCC preschool program.

Melanie Botnick

Melanie is beginning her 28th year with The J's Early Childhood Program.  Melanie has had the pleasure of working in all three Mandel JCC Early Childhood Centers - Mayfield, Solon and currently in Beachwood.  And on occasion, Melanie has had the pleasure of working with her former students' children!

Melanie was born to teach – from the earliest age she recognized her passion for helping young children blossom and develop. “Their brains are like tiny sponges – absorbing new information and constructing knowledge at a very rapid pace," said Melanie. “My goal is to create a safe, nurturing environment that honors children’s individuality while supporting their optimal growth.”

Melanie brings a calm knowing presence to her work with young children – “modeling adult self-composure helps children regulate their own feelings and strong emotions,” she said. “I’m also committed to helping parents during their child’s early developmental years.” 

Melanie and her husband Bruce live in Lyndhurst – they enjoy their blended family of seven adult children and two grandchildren.

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 Shanna Brown

Shanna will begin her third year teaching at The J. Her effusive and effervescent smile reflects the energy and passion she feels for teaching. “Influencing young children is an enormous responsibility – it raises my conscious thinking and behavior to a whole new level,” said Shanna. "It’s much more than being an appropriate role model – it’s about elevating children to see the best in themselves and others. These young children will be tomorrow’s leaders – it’s our obligation to support and develop their learning domains and potential as human beings.”

Shanna’s passion for personal growth and self-expression informs the way she interacts with her students. “I always look for the best in each child, regardless of the challenge at hand,” she said. “Challenges are new opportunities to grow and improve – an attitude she maintains for herself and children alike.”

Before teaching at The J, Shanna worked professionally as a nanny, preschool teacher and movement specialist. Shanna plays sports, dances, and practices yoga. As a former dance instructor – movement plays an important role in Shanna’s life. Both personally and professionally, Shanna keeps the energy moving forward – no matter what.
Shanna grew up in Mayfield Heights where she currently lives.

 

Holly Bruell

Holly Bruell holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and has been teaching at The J since 1992 - the majority of these years have been spent in a classroom teaching three-year-olds.  “Helping children cultivate a love of learning and develop a strong connection to our classroom community is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work,” Holly said. “Our program responds to what is really important in early childhood education – building trusting relationships, supporting children’ ability to understand and regulate their feelings, cultivating children’s innate curiosity and – preserving children’s right to a healthy childhood. All of this –
plus more, creates bright, inquisitive and successful learners! The start of the school is a new beginning for teachers and children alike – it’s my favorite time of year!” 

Holly is passionate about her own growth and development – engaging in professional workshops and conferences is always top priority. “There are so many ways to grow and evolve as a teacher – my learning excites me in the same way I ignite that delight in children,” said Holly.

Holly’s connections to The J run deep. Her three adult children attended preschool at The J. Both of Holly’s daughters met their husbands at Camp Wise – The J’s overnight camp; Holly and her husband Doug, who are recent empty nesters, enjoy yoga classes at The J!

 

Alex Bucewicz 

Alex is thrilled to begin teaching in the toddler classroom. “The J’s Early Childhood Center has such a warm, nurturing environment. Children are respected as individuals and encouraged to grow each in his or her own unique way,” Alex said. Alex also understands the importance of building positive rapport with parents. “I want parents to know that their child is not just safe in my care – but also appreciated, valued and honored for who they are,” she said. “Seeing the world through a child’s eyes gives teaching such a new and refreshing perspective – I love how children shed light on the simple things in life.”

Alex comes to the toddler room as a seasoned educator. Over the past nine years Alex has worked in both public and private educational settings, as well as special education and has taught English as a second language.
Alex graduated from John Carroll University with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She received her Master’s in Special Education from Ursuline University.

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 Tanya Davis

Tanya will be starting her fourth year as a toddler teacher in room 4, and although Tanya has worked with children across the developmental spectrum, toddlers are among her favorite! “Toddlers innate sense of wonder – their fascination with the world around them and pure delight in simple pleasures sustains my sense of awe and appreciation,” Tanya said. "I just love watching them grow and change on a daily basis.” Tanya is committed
to providing exceptional care to her young students. “I want our families to know that their children are not only well-cared for, but also valued and deeply respected.”

Tanya holds a Master’s degree from Marygrove College and a BA from Case Western University. She and her husband live in Cleveland Heights and are the proud parents of two college-bound daughters!

 

Linda Duvin

Linda Duvin is beginning her 21st year as a Mandel JCC preschool teacher.  During her tenure, Linda has worked with children across the development spectrum – two-year olds through Pre-K. Teaching such diverse age groups keeps Linda fresh and open to new ideas. “My strength is appreciating what each developmental stage offers – both for the collective group and also for each child. But what I find truly fulfilling is supporting a classroom community that
honors and supports each child’s individuality, growth and optimal development,” she said.

Linda sees these informative years as on opportunity to create meaningful connections
with children while helping them develop a deep and enduring love of learning. “What happens in preschool doesn’t stay in preschool – it lays the foundation for children’s subsequent learning,” Linda said.

Linda lives with her daughter in Mayfield Village. Linda enjoys being outdoors and especially taking long walks with her dogs!

Joni Giterman

Joni Giterman has been teaching at The J since 2003 and feels very fortunate to be working with a committed group of educators at a top notch preschool.  “My goal is to instill in children a love of learning and a love of school,” Joni said. “I find it extremely gratifying to help young children navigate new social and academic experiences.  Pre-K children are so competent.  I enjoy supporting their growth mastery."

Joni holds a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio University. She and her husband live in Solon with their youngest son (two older children live on their own). All three Giterman children are graduates of the Mandel JCC preschool program! In her spare time, Joni enjoys being with her family, roaming arts and cultural events, traveling, reading and baking.

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Inessa Goldenberg

Inessa is completing her 28th year as toddler teacher at The J – her career started at the Mayfield JCC, then transitioned to the Solon JCC and for the past 5 years she has been working here in Beachwood.

Inessa, born in Russia, earned a degree in Economics before she immigrated to the United States. Although the move prompted Inessa to change her professional direction– her passion remained the same. “I was always fascinated by young children,” says Inessa – it is such a delight
to watch their development progress in such a very short time. The world is a wondrous place for them to explore. While I encourage my young students to take flight – I also offer them
a soft place to land.” Despite Inessa’s tenure in the field – each new class presents rich and diversified learning – not just for the children, but for her too.

Inessa and her husband Jeff live in Solon – their two grown children (one with a spouse) live out-of-state. In her spare time, Inessa enjoys museums, art, theater, classical music and playing
the piano – but most of all, she enjoys spending time with her grandson Ethan – age 3!

Jackie Gordon

Jackie is beginning her fifth year teaching at The J. Jackie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Akron University in Child and Family Development. “I chose the field of Early Care and Education because I’m passionate about children and I recognize the life-long impact teachers can have on their young students and their families,” Jackie said. “I also know that brain growth is occurring so rapidly during these early years. My goal is to help children develop strong social and emotional skills – a necessity for school success, and help them cultivate a strong love of learning!”

Jackie has been a classroom teacher of toddlers, three and four-year olds. “Teaching children of different ages has helped to expand my developmental framework and understanding. I love attuning to the unique qualities and dispositions of each age group,” said Jackie.

Jackie grew up in Solon, and currently lives in Twinsburg. “Although the end of the summer comes all too quickly, I can’t wait for school to begin – forming new relationships with children and families rejuvenates my spirit and energy each year!”

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Sarah Grant

Sarah is approaching her third year of teaching at The J and is thrilled to be working with three-year-olds.

“It is such a privilege to watch this age group grow and develop – helping to shape and inform their learning is meaningful and inspiring work, “said Sarah. “Young children approach the
world with a unique sense of wonder and delight – I love watching them discover, not just the world around them, but also their own strengths and capabilities.”

Sarah always wanted to be a teacher but initially pursued a degree in Hospitality Management. As dissimilar as the two fields may appear – there is some overlap. “Creating a warm, welcoming hospitable environment for children and their families is a top priority for me,” she said. “I look forward to an exciting year ahead – working with new children, their families and a wonderful team of teachers!”

 

Rebekah Kaminski 

Rebekah's warmth, comfort and ease with young children are evident as soon as you meet her.  Rebekah is beginning her second year teaching toddlers here at the J.


Rebekah’s love of working with young children carried over with her as she moved with her family from Tucson, Arizone (where she worked as camp director) to Beachwood. “One of my biggest passions in life is being in a classroom with young children where I can support, nurture and influence their positive growth," Rebekah said. "I'm equally passionate about developing meaningful relationships with parents -- we're partners working towards a common goal to do what's best for their children.  The J is a perfect place for me to do this -- the environment truly feels like a 'home away from home.'"

In addition to teaching, Rebekah is currently completing her degree in Early Childhood Education.

 

Ashley Kearney

Ashley is excited about launching her teaching career at The J. Her warmth and compassion are contagious – after a few moments in her company you can’t help but feel her positive energy! Ashley feels that education is one of the most powerful tools that can positively change the world. “I can’t wait to harness this power in my daily work and interactions with my young students,” she said.

Ashley knows the importance of positive 
leadership. “Children learn more from what you do than from what you say - I plan to teach children valuable life lessons and also show them how they are applied,” she said

Ashley grew up in Aurora, OH where she still resides. She earned a Bachelor of Arts/
Social Work from The University of Akron. During college Ashley traveled to poverty stricken communities in Venezuela and Honduras, helping children and their families build sustainable living environments.

Judi Likover

Judi has been a teacher at The J for over 27 years. The majority of these years have been spent in a classroom teaching Pre-K students.

When Judi first received her degree at The Ohio State University in Family and Child Development she never imagined she’d have such an extensive tenure with one institution. “Each year feels like a renewal – new children, new families, new opportunities to grow and develop as a professional," Judi said. "We’ve all heard the saying, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ – time is passing quickly and watching children grow and develop is both meaningful and fun!” Fun does not negate serious – Judi takes her role as a seasoned educator to heart – always doing her best to support her young student’s growth.

Judi believes preschool is the foundation for young children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development – what occurs during these very formative years influences children’s learning forever.

Judi and her husband Jeff live in Mayfield Heights with their two dogs, Bedford and Spencer. She and Jeff are the proud parents of three grown sons and a daughter-in-law. Judi’s favorite vacation spot is any place where they can all be together at the same time!

Preschool Teacher

Ilene Neides

Ilene Neides is beginning her 15th year teaching at The J. Throughout the years she has taught both 3’s and Pre-K.

Ilene’s attributes her most significant professional learning to Conscious Discipline – our school philosophy that supports children’s social and emotional growth by enhancing adult self–awareness, helping children navigate through conflict and creating strong, connected classroom communities. “I enjoy working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. Watching them work through a challenge and experiencing an “ahaa” moment is incredibly rewarding, “ says Ilene.

Ilene and her husband Bob live in Solon and are the proud parents of three current and post college graduates – all who are alumni of the Mandel JCC. Ilene holds a BA from the University of Michigan – in her spare time she enjoys swimming, yoga, reading traveling and mah-jongg.

 

Danielle Slover

Danielle has been working with children of all ages for the past 20 years and is very excited to join The J’s Early Childhood team in the toddler room. As a music therapist
and Early Childhood educator, Danielle believes that, “music is a language that we can all understand”. She is passionate about creative arts in Early Childhood as well. “All children need an outlet in which they express themselves, and it is our job as educators to provide them with opportunities to explore their creative nature,” she said. 

Danielle lives with her son, Brandon, in Painesville. She volunteers for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and is currently raising a Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy in training.

Talya Sterling

Talya is excited to join The J’s Early Childhood Team. Talya graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education and most recently, returned from a year-long program in Israel where she taught English to
Hebrew-speaking children. After graduating college, Talya worked for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in its Public Education Initiative where she managed reading tutors in eight different Cleveland City Schools.

Talya’s love for children began at an early age. She grew up in a close-knit family where 
living Jewish values and sustaining meaningful Jewish practices and traditions positively influenced and shaped the person she is today.

Talya is excited about facilitating a dynamic classroom experience where all children thrive.
“Every day in the classroom is a new adventure – an opportunity for children and teachers alike to grow. It’s a two-way street – my students learn as much from me I learn from them,” she said.

preschool teacher

Jill Vasil

Jill has been teaching at The J for more than seven years and truly believes working with toddlers is her calling!  Jill loves watching her young students grow.  Offering them guidance, support and encouragement is second nature to her. “It’s about building trust and connections with both parents and children,” she said. “We want parents to feel comfortable and secure that their children are receiving exceptional care while they are away from home. We all take our work seriously – and we love coming to work each day!”

Jill considers The J her “home away from home.” It’s the exact feeling I want children to have when they come here each day,” she said. 

Jill enjoys taking long walks and caring for animals. She lives in Beachwood with her son Craig and dog Henry.

 

Lauren Weinberg

Lauren is delighted to be joining the Mandel JCC toddler team. After leaving sunny south Florida for Cleveland, Lauren immediately felt a warm welcome from the staff and students of The J’s Early Childhood program.
“Growing up in a family with 24 first cousins, I am no stranger to working with toddlers,” said Lauren. Additionally, working as a substitute teacher at Laurel School this past year has strengthened Lauren’s classroom experience. “I look forward to helping the children transition into a safe, fun, nurturing home away from home classroom,” she added. “My goal is to
ensure that all of the children get the attention and support needed to reach their fullest potential. I am excited to watch them learn and grow each day.”

Lauren holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The Ohio State University and is happy to be back in the Buckeye state with her husband, Jake and their dog, Tress.

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