Block and Dreeben Program & Philosophy
Our purpose of education at the JCC’s Block and Dreeben School for Young Children is to develop young children’s minds, bodies and emotions, and to produce individuals who are self-directed, lifelong learners by:
- Fostering Jewish identity through an experiential approach to Judaism.
- Generating a relaxed Jewish atmosphere which provides openness, spontaneity, creativity, joy and love.
- Providing an array of stimulating activities to promote aesthetic and cultural awareness, academic readiness, motor development, and social skills.
- Encouraging independence, a feeling of self-confidence, respect for others and a sense of belonging in a group.
- Offering love and support to each child and each family.
Each day we provide a supportive, nurturing environment which promotes the emotional, social, physical, cognitive, and spiritual development of young children. Our program offers a child-centered curriculum which is based on children’s interests while promoting academic development. We are inspired by the values and philosophy of the early childhood programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy where the child is seen as a capable and competent learner and the environment is filled with beautiful natural materials which stimulate learning. We provide hands-on-experiences which promote creativity, discovery, exploration, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.
Each classroom serves as a laboratory for a growing child’s experiments in the mastery of new skills. Our program encourages active exploration of the environment, from the youngest child learning how to crawl across an open floor space to the oldest investigating the physics and chemistry of the world around him. We promote curiosity, individual interests, creativity, problem-solving, literacy, and the development of self-esteem through play, the vehicle by which children learn and develop.
Experiencing Judaism is part of daily life at the JCC. Our curriculum is based on exposing children to the warmth, beauty and richness of our Jewish heritage. Many basic values of Judaism are incorporated into our activities. The Jewish holidays with all their traditions are an integral and on-going part of our educational program. Kabbalat Shabbat is celebrated weekly. Special events and activities include the celebration of Jewish holidays, hands-on "Holiday Experiences", cooking projects, music, songs and books.
Through the An Ethical Start program, songs, stories and interactive activities are used to teach ethics and the values of responsibility, dignity, kindness, community, tradition and respect.
Our program is directed by Alissa Levey Baugh, who holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has been involved in early childhood education since 1972, and has been the school's director since 1989. Her experiences have included public and private schools as well as teaching at the college level. Alissa has presented numerous workshops at local, state, and national levels. She received the Director of the Year Award from the San Antonio Association for the Education of Young Children in the spring of 2000.
Our Assistant Director, Calla Pfeifer-Campos, earned a B.A. in Communications from UTSA. After working as the JCC's Children and Youth Coordinator for over two years, she returned to UTSA and received her Post Baccalaureate Teaching Certification for early childhood through fourth grade. Calla returned to the JCC in 2006 as a full-time teacher at the Block and Dreeben School for Young Children. Additionally, Calla teaches Kindergarten Religious School classes at Temple Beth-El, where she has been teaching since 2007.