Meet Our Teachers
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 has been in the field of Early Care and Education for more than seven years – and is beginning her fifth year 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. She understands the importance of creating a warm and welcoming classroom environment for children and adults alike.
Liza graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor degree in Human Development and Family Science. She obtained her Master’s degree in Jewish Education from Siegal College of Judaic Studies. Liza also 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 the 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.
Kathy has worked in the Early Childhood department at The J since 2009. Throughout her career she has been employed with American Greetings and Mayfield City Schools but considers her work here at The J the most enjoyable. She loves seeing the preschool children every day and feels very lucky to be working with a great group of teachers.
Mayfield Heights is home to Kathy where she lives with her husband. They have two daughters, Ashley, who teaches at Roxboro Middle School in Cleveland Hts., and Lindsay who works with Holocaust survivors at Jewish Family Services Association. Ashley along with her husband, Ted, are parents of granddaughter, Lia, who will one day be a graduate of The J’s preschool program as is Ashley and Lindsay!
Kathy enjoys spending time with family, gardening, traveling and reading.
Char has been teaching preschool 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. Together they have four children. She also lives with a revolving menagerie of pets! Char is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts 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.
Lynne’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.
Shanna has been teaching at The J since 2013. 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.
Alex, is thrilled to teach 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 her career 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.
Holly 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 childrens’ ability to understand and regulate their feelings, cultivating childrens’ innate curiosity and preserving childrens’ 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’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!
Lianna is an experienced substitute teacher who has spent a great deal of time working with young children at The J. For several summers Lianna was a Playland Day Camp counselor. This summer, Lianna’s energies and efforts have been focused primarily in our toddler classrooms as a substitute teacher. Lianna’s constant, stable presence has been the perfect complement to the team. Lianna loves all children, but has a special affinity for toddlers. “Toddlers have a wonderful way of looking at the world – to them, the world is simply a beautiful place to explore and I love that view,” says Lianna.
Lianna holds a BA from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She currently lives in Cleveland Heights with her family
Tanya has been with The J since 2012. 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 parents of two daughters.
Linda 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 taking long walks with her dogs!
Alexis is no stranger to the field of Early Care and Education. She first began teaching young children while working on her college degree at Illinois State University. Alexis then moved to Seattle, Washington where she provided in-home child care and then later moved to California where she worked in Montessori education.
In 2015 Alexis and her husband returned to Cleveland (her husband’s home town) after starting their own family. When Alexis was hired to teach at The J she also felt as though she had “returned home!” “Not only did I know about The J’s fantastic reputation, I was thrilled to be part of a program where teachers take pride in their work and genuinely care about their students and colleagues,” said Alexis. “I am delighted that my own young son has entered The J’s EC program so he can benefit from the outstanding care and education that is a benchmark of this program.”
Alexis describes teaching as a very rewarding profession and feels especially grateful to be influencing children’s growth at this early and most formative stage of their development.