Meet Our Early Childhood Staff
Working with children has always been the foundation of Bobbie’s career. Prior to working with the Early Childhood team, Bobbie was very active in various roles at
The J, such as in community outreach and program development. All three of Bobbie’s children attended preschool and camp programs at The J as well.
When Bobbie returned to The J to teach preschool, she felt that she was right where she was supposed to be. Here she has found a strong community amongst her Early Childhood colleagues. Bobbie looks forward to spending every day in the classroom. She feels that when she helps children explore the world, she is able to see things from their point of view.
Mary was born and raised in Cleveland, attended Cleveland State University and has taught for the Diocese of Cleveland for 35 years as an elementary school teacher. Mary’s teaching philosophy has always been to take care of every child as if the child were her own. She appreciates the humor she sees in children’s interactions and enjoys hearing and learning from what they have to say. Mary has always had a deep love for children.
Although Cleveland is her home, Mary and her family lived in Argentina for a few years teaching English to elementary school children as well as to adult students. She returns to Argentina every two years in order to reconnect with her colleagues and to participate in English conversation classes.
In addition to gardening and reading, Mary is a long distance walker. She has walked the Camino de Santiago trail, a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage, three times! This is a 500-mile trail that begins in the mountains of southwestern France and ends in Spain.
Mary lost her husband of 46 years last fall. She has three sons, three wonderful daughter-in-laws and six adorable grandchildren. She is excited to start her second year at The J and believes this is a wonderful institution at which to work.
India has a tremendous amount of experience working in early childhood. She started her career running an in-home day care for infants through preschoolers.
Before joining the staff at The J, India was very active in her community of Cleveland Heights, volunteering her time with the PTA at Roxboro Elementary School. What started off as volunteering a few days a week tutoring kindergarten to third graders, quickly grew into a position chairing. For the next three years, India recruited other parents to give their time in the classroom as well.
India is a founding member of the small but effective parent group Building Rox, recently renamed Building Heights. Its mission is focused on raising funds and providing opportunities at little or no cost for children in the community and CHUH school district. The jewel of this endeavor is the Heights Performing Arts Camp. The camp works in partnership with Ensemble Theatre to provide a free, three-week camp for CHUH students in the 5th and 6th grade. Participants write, stage and perform their plays at Cain Park’s Alma Theatre. India also helps to manage a small clothing pantry located in Roxboro Elementary School. India is eager to share her love of community and service with her students!
India is the mother of three sons ranging from middle school through adulthood. India loves music, singing and storytelling and teaches enrichment classes to our three-year-olds in chorus and storytelling.
Deena has been teaching at The J since 2016 and has worked with every age group in our Early Childhood program. Prior to coming to The J, she worked with children through improv. Deena has used improv to teach social skills to kids with autism. She incorporates her improv background in the classroom to help foster an environment of creativity, fun and growth. Deena has taught an enrichment program called “Comedy Kids” to our three and four-year-olds.
Deena has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bradley University. As a teacher, Deena knows kids grow the most when they feel safe and nurtured. She feels privileged to provide children with what they need to thrive. Deena has attended the “Conscious Discipline” conference and incorporates this developmentally appropriate practice in her daily interactions with children.
Deena is the proud mother of Rafi, and loves to spend time with him. In addition, she is a writer and comedian who performs regularly all over town.
A transplant to Cleveland, Bela comes to The J from Michigan. Previous to teaching at
The J, Bela taught early childhood at the JCC in West Bloomfield. After seeing the open-ended materials, natural environments and caring relationships of The J’s Early Childhood Program, Bela knew she had found a special place to teach. Bela believes that children are innately wired to be curious and exploratory and saw that The J fosters these qualities.
Bela aims to provide the support, comfort and freedom children need to seek the learning they crave. According to Bela, “Our job is to offer supplies that children can create with, design environments where they feel safe, promote their families as an integral part of the school experience and empathize with them. After that, it is truly the children who do the work. It is a privilege to play a role in their earliest learning experiences.”
Bela has enjoyed participating in young children’s learning in multiple capacities. She has cared for and taught children from birth and onward as a volunteer, teacher and nanny. She has also worked with children with special medical and developmental needs. Bela graduated from Madonna University with a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and an Infant-Toddler Caregiver Certificate.
Bela enjoys dancing, hiking, gardening and baking, both in her spare time and in early childhood settings.
Talya is delighted to be a part of The J’s teaching team for another great year. A graduate of Syracuse University, Talya has a Bachelor of Arts degree in inclusive elementary and special education.
Prior to teaching at The J, Talya spent a year in Israel where she taught English to Hebrew speaking children. She also 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.
In addition to teaching Pre-K, Talya has taught sign language as an enrichment class to our three and four-year-olds. She also teaches Hebrew school at Park Synagogue and is an avid soccer player.
Jill has been teaching at The J since 2008 and truly believes working with children 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 in knowing 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 and dog.
Lisa has been devoted to the early childhood field for over 24 years. She has worked with all ages of children, from infants and toddlers to Pre-K and school-aged students. Lisa holds a child development associate certificate and a degree in early childhood education. She was presented the Toddler Teacher of the Year award in 2005 from
Lisa said, “I love being a part of children’s growth and development. They are curious and creative learners, which I find fascinating to observe.” Lisa is dedicated to the social and emotional development of each child and makes it her goal to foster kindness and friendships in her classroom.
Originally from Hubbard, Ohio, Lisa moved to the area in August, 2014. During her free time, Lisa enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, taking walks at the lake and is an avid animal lover.