Tender Topics and Ways of Wellness: A Conference for Educators

 In Building

This past month, educators from over ten East Bay Jewish preschools gathered at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette to learn and grow as professionals. This was the annual Early Childhood Education Conference, a yearly tradition organized by the Jewish Federation of the East Bay in partnership with the Early Childhood Education Council, a group of preschool directors that meet monthly.

“The purpose of the ECE Conference is multifaceted. We want to carve out a day to honor and celebrate some of the hardest working educators in the community. We also want to provide a platform for professional growth and learning,” said Rabbi Andrew Kastner, Director of Community Impact at Federation.

“Each year, we select a topic that emerges from the directors as they identify the most critical, urgent, common issues that preschools are dealing with,” explained Kastner. “Tender Topics and Ways of Wellness was identified as a topic that covers ways to care for children and care for the self. Supporting teachers to have the skills and empathy to effectively navigate sensitive issues that pop up around illness, death, and God is critical. We also wanted to expose them to and hopefully cultivate some strategies that will enable them to care for themselves and thrive in the field for years to come.”

The sessions varied from advice about working with young children through separation and divorce to talking to children about god, to prevent burnout through art, mindfulness, and movement. One session incorporated a panel of veteran preschool directors who shared their experience and advice with the educators.

Jamie, an educator at Gan Avraham in Oakland, attended “The Special Needs Diagnosis is In: Now What?” taught by David Neufeld, Director of Inclusion at Jewish LearningWorks. She appreciated what she took away from the session: “A lot of the pushback that you can experience from families [after a special needs diagnosis] is just based on trepidation or fear. David stressed that it is important to remember that just because you’ve met one child with one issue means you’ve only met one child with one issue. They are all very different and you need to work with each child and each family individually.”

Maya, another Gan Avraham educator, liked the particular resources she was able to take away and put to use in her classroom. “What I liked about that session was that it finally gave me some resources and information that I have been seeking for a couple of my students. It just gave me a glimpse of hope, that I can have [David Neufeld] come and observe them, and maybe find avenues to help them in ways that I am not able to.”

Maya also valued the “Art for the Educator’s Soul” session with Rabbi Adina Allen, Co-Founder and Creative Director of The Jewish Studio Project. “I loved it. It was nice because we got to do positive affirmations for ourselves and one another. We got to do something artistic, and it wasn’t something that we will necessarily go back and do with our classes, but something we share with one another, for ourselves.”

The educators were appreciative of the learning and the chance to be together. Check out some photos of the conference.


Are you considering sending your child to a Jewish preschool? Reach out to Liora Brosbe, our Family Engagement Officer for help in navigating all the complexities and nuances of picking a preschool. Liora offers Youth and Family Concierge Services to help assist you and your family through your transitions and decisions. You can reach Liora at concierge@jfed.org or 510.809.4914.

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