Meet Our Early Childhood Staff
Jessica Robins, Director of Early Childhood, 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’s 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 MASA program called Otzma where she lived in Be’er Sheva, Afula, and Tel Aviv. While in Israel, she taught English in schools, volunteered in after school programs, 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 non-profit, where she taught entrepreneurship skills to students and teachers in low income Middle and High Schools throughout the city.
Most recently, before joining The J, Jessica spent the last seven years serving as the Director of Admissions at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School and as Associate Director 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, read, watch foreign films, play games, eat delicious foods, and continue to learn whenever she has the opportunity.
Liza has been in the field of Early Care and Education for more than seven years and serves as the Interim Director of Early Childhood services.
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.
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 Service 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. 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.
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 empty nesters, enjoy yoga classes at The J!
Nicole Cohen has previously worked at Playland Camp and was a substitute teacher this past school year. Although new to teaching, Nicole is not new to the Early Childhood department. She is very excited to be a full time teacher in the three-year-old class this year.
Nicole is a recent graduate of Kent State University. She graduated 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.
During her senior year of college, Nicole volunteered and interned at the Friendship Circle of Cleveland. After graduation she continued to work there, as 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 is a graduate of Knox College in Galesburg, IL with a BA. She currently lives in Cleveland Heights
Inessa began her career at The J in 1988, first at the Mayfield JCC, followed by the Solon JCC and finally here at The J since 2007.
Inessa was born in Russia and earned a degree in Economics before immigrating 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,” Inessa said. 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 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!
Jackie has been working at The J since 2011. Jackie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree 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!”
This is Meghann’s first year teaching at The J. She was born and raised in Beachwood, Ohio. 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 Masters 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 4th grade at various synagogues in both Manhattan and Cleveland.
In 2011, Meghann started teaching preschool in a Reggio Emilia inspired school on 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 many years at The J.