Meet Our Early Childhood Staff
Jessica Robins received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history of art from the University of Michigan. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to teach elementary school in the South Bronx with Teach for America (TFA). During that time, she received her Master of Science in elementary education at the Bank Street College of Education. Following her graduation and TFA commitment, she then moved to Israel to participate in a one year fellowship program called Otzma. While in Israel, she taught English in schools and did development work for WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organization).
Jessica returned to New York to work for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an educational nonprofit, where she mentored and coached public and charter school teachers teaching entrepreneurship skills to students in low income middle and high schools throughout the city.
Before joining The J, Jessica spent seven years serving as the Director of Admissions at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School and as Associate Director of Admissions at the Bank Street School for Children. She was also the co-chair of the Diversity Committee at Bank Street College.
In her free time, Jessica likes being active and engaged in her community. She especially enjoys hiking, cycling, running, yoga and skiing. She also loves to travel, bake, read, eat delicious food and continue to learn whenever she has the opportunity. Jessica lives in Beachwood with her husband and daughter.
Liza serves as the Assistant Director of Early Childhood Services, and has been in the field of early care and education for more than 10 years.
She understands the importance of creating a safe and welcoming school environment that allows children and adults alike the opportunity to create meaningful relationships and build a strong foundation of skills for lifelong learning.
Liza graduated from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s 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 professionals for early childhood leadership roles.
Liza lives in Twinsburg with her husband, Brian, and daughter, Evelyn, who at a young age, has already participated in and benefited from a variety of programs at The J including Toddlercare, New Moms and Babies Group, and Family Swim Class!
Kathy has worked in the Early Childhood department at The J since 2009. Through 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, Maynard. They have two daughters, Ashley and Lindsay, two son-in-laws, Ted and Craig, two granddaughters, Lia and Eden, and one grandson, Ben. Ashley and Lindsay are graduates of The J’s preschool program as is granddaughter Lia!
In her spare time, Kathy enjoys traveling, reading, gardening and spending as much time with her grandchildren as she can.
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. She 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, one still at home. She also lives with a revolving menagerie of pets! Char completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in early childhood education, psychology and communications from The University of Cincinnati as a long-distance learner. In her free time, Char enjoys gardening, cooking and pottery. She has been an avid potter for over 20 years. In addition to teaching Pre-K, Char has been channeling her love of gardening into our own school garden as the garden advisor.
Lynne Berliner’s tenure in the field of early childhood care and education is long and extensive. Lynne holds a degree in education from Miami University. She started her career in education as a kindergarten teacher in East Cleveland. She began teaching preschool at The J in 1993. After sending her three children to the Mandel JCC preschool, Lynne saw the value of the program and started teaching here. “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 who are all married, and they have three grandchildren.
Sheila relocated with her husband, daughter Helen, and son Jack to Shaker Heights from Philadelphia. She taught kindergarten to third grade and middle school science and math for seven years throughout the Philadelphia area before deciding to take a break and pursue a career in health care. Sheila had been working as a physical therapist assistant. After seven years working in health care Sheila was excited and eager to return to the classroom.
Sheila firmly believes that all children are born with natural curiosity and a teacher’s role is to guide each child through their own journey of discovery. Her children have reminded her of the wonderment of discovery and have encouraged her to slow down, and always find the humor in a situation.
Sheila holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental conservation from the University of New Hampshire, a Master of Science in elementary education from Saint Joseph’s University and a physical therapy assistant Associate’s Degree from Harcum College.
Holly Bruell holds a degree in early childhood education and has been teaching at The J’s
preschool 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 children’s innate curiosity and preserving children’s right to a healthy childhood. 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 and participates in professional workshops and conferences. “There are so many ways to grow and evolve as a teacher,” said Holly. She has participated in a week-long Conscious Discipline training program, which continues to shape and influence her practice and those around her. In addition, Holly plans J-Family Days for community members and teaches cooking in one of our enrichment programs.
Holly’s connections to The J run deep. Her 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 enjoy their three beautiful granddaughters.
This is Nicole’s second year teaching at The J. She has previously worked at Playland Camp and was a substitute teacher. Nicole started teaching full time in the Early Childhood Department in 2019.
Nicole graduated from Kent State University in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in human development and family studies with a concentration in child and youth development. She also double minored in sociology and non-profit studies and received a certificate in disability studies and community inclusion.
Over the last two years, Nicole has worked at the Friendship Circle of Cleveland as a volunteer, an intern and then as part of the behavioral staff. She finds working with children of differing abilities extremely rewarding.
In her spare time, Nicole enjoys spending time with her friends and family. She is a huge fan of the Cleveland Indians, reading and is a lover of all things Disney.
Lianna joined the staff of The J in 2016 and enjoys working with our toddlers. For several summers prior to 2016, Lianna was a Playland Day Camp counselor and a substitute teacher in the Early Childhood department during breaks from college. Lianna is excited to start another year on the toddler team. She is looking forward to an exciting year of exploration and growth. “Toddlers have a wonderful way of looking at the world – to them, the world is simply a beautiful place to explore, and I love viewing the world through their eyes,” says Lianna.
Lianna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. She currently lives in Willoughby with her mom and two cats. Lianna has an eagerness to continue to learn and grow as an educator. She has really enjoyed expanding her knowledge as a Conscious Discipline practitioner since joining The J’s school family and learning many life lessons from the children.
Jackie has been part of The J family since 2011. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Akron 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 inquiry, discovery, themselves and others!”
Jackie is part of a three-year Sheva Leadership Program through the JCCA. In this role she has formed a leadership team of early childhood professionals and lay leaders to create an enhanced vision for The J’s Early Childhood program.
Jackie is teaching in one of our Pre-K classrooms this year (four and five-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,”
Jackie grew up in Solon, loves to get messy, fish, sit in the sunshine, discover the world alongside children, and spend time with the people she loves.
Meghann has been teaching at The J since 2018. She was born and raised in Beachwood. She is an artist, ballet teacher, early childhood educator and a Jewish educator. In 2006 Meghann received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Mary Schiller Myers School of Art at The University of Akron. In 2008, she moved to New York City, where she received her Master of Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design in painting and performance art.
Throughout her life, Meghann has been a Jewish educator. Throughout college and after college, she taught Hebrew to children in kindergarten through the fourth grade at various synagogues in both Manhattan and Cleveland. Meghann currently teaches Hebrew school at Suburban Temple-Kol Ami.
In 2011, Meghann started teaching preschool in a Reggio Emilia inspired school in New York City’s Upper West Side where her creative and artistic background led to the opportunity to develop an art curriculum. In 2013 Meghann went back for her second master’s degree at Teachers College, which is part of Columbia University in early childhood education and special education. Meghann’s passion is in helping develop the “whole child.” She believes that all children have the opportunity to learn through play-based experiences.
After 10 years in New York City, Meghann and her husband moved back to Cleveland. On weekends you can find her teaching preschool ballet classes, spending time with her husband, and making art in her painting studio! Meghann is so happy to be a part of the Mandel JCC community and is looking forward to another year at The J.
Liam was born and raised in Beachwood. Having attended a Jewish early childhood center, Liam was particularly excited to be working for an outstanding program such as The J’s. Liam has a lot of experience and is very familiar with working with young children.
Over the past couple of years, he has been spending his time at The J strengthening his passion and shared philosophy of using Conscious Discipline in the classroom with his students and colleagues. He believes this healthy and impactful social-emotional development is critical and will set up our young learners for a successful and fulfilling future.
Liam earned his Associate of Arts degree from Cuyahoga Community College. He has an interest in Spanish and hopes to incorporate this language into his work with children.
Liam emphasizes that every day is a new opportunity to learn and grow together, and he feels very grateful to be part of our school family.