Meet Our Staff
Maytal Ebstein - Teacher (Group 1)
Maytal made aliyah from the US with her family when she was seven years old. Growing up in Jerusalem, she always loved working with and babysitting for children. After babysitting for hundreds of children around the world, she gained a reputation as the baby whisperer, which made Early Childhood the natural choice as her area of study. Maytal just completed her last year at Seminar HaKibbutzim where her degree included a year-long internship at a public gan, during which she fine-tuned her ideas about how children learn. Maytal also worked at The JECC as a part-time teacher last year and continues to be greatly inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, especially with regard to the smaller staff to child ratio. She was thrilled when she was asked to continue in the school as a permanent teacher, this time working with the age group she feels most passionate about. Based on her belief that every child is a world unto him/herself, Maytal's approach is to provide the personal attention needed for children to develop a healthy sense of self. Because she herself is happiest when she is with children, it is easy for her to instill within them confidence and a joyful spirit. Maytal looks forward to accompanying the children of the JECC on their journey to becoming the best that they can be.
Marietta Meryn - Teacher (Group 1)
Marietta is originally from Austria and made aliyah a few months ago. As a trained psychotherapist in Vienna, she worked with a method called "Guided Affective Imagery", a wonderful and creative way of working with children of any age based on the idea that images sometimes make it easier to express emotions. Marietta encountered the Reggio Emilia approach coincidentally a few years ago and was immediately amazed by the values and believes of this approach. The "image of the child" touched herheart, particularly the idea that children are viewed as what they are: full of potential from the day they are born. As a therapist, and as a human being, Marietta understands how important the first few years of life are. She is thrilled to be a part of The JECC; to have the opportunity to provide the children with a safe and nurturing environment and to make it possible for them to discover and interpret the world around them in a suitable way.
Shiri Sabarov - Teacher (Group 1)
Shiri’s love of children started when she herself was still a small girl. As her mother always tells people, “Shiri’s eyes lit up every time she saw a baby!” But her true love affair with Early Childhood Education began during her studies at Albaum, where she studied treatment of learning and developmental disabilities, while also taking care of babies privately. Ten years have past since then, but her love for children has only grown stronger. Now, after three years of individual care, seven years of working in a daycare, five years of leading groups of babies (from 4 months to 3 years of age), two years of infant development studies at “First Step”, and four months of infant sleep consultant studies, Shiri finally arrives at The JECC. She comes with high hopes to realize many small but important dreams: to love, to teach values, to show that if there is a will there is a way, to see each child as a complete world, and to prove that effort progresses people further, both children and adults.
Ayelet Gonen - Teacher (Group 2)
Ayelet was born in Israel and moved to California when she was three years old. Three years ago, she returned to Israel to be near her family. Ayelet has been teaching children of all ages for close to 20 years. She began her journey into education after high school when she chose to study Early Childhood and began teaching preschool-age children shortly thereafter. Her last five years in California were spent working with an amazing community in Oakland, California at a Jewish play-based preschool. She was introduced to the Reggio Emilia approach in her early studies and was able to connect and grow her knowledge of what children need, to feel respected and that they are active learners. Ayelet is very passionate about seeing the whole child and entering into their world as partners in learning and growing together. With The JECC, Ayelet feels she has finally found a preschool that encompasses all the values that she views as crucial to children's healthy development.
Lonnie Hendrickson – Teacher (Group 2)
Lonnie Hendrickson is a Tel Avivian by way of Pennsylvania and Jerusalem. She believes a place of education should support and encourage students' authentic discovery - from their earliest months and years. With a professional background teaching art and a dash of everything else, to students of all ages, she is committed to being the best teacher she can be for each child and helping each child acquire experience and knowledge to know themselves and the world around them, and develop the skills to grow and learn with ease.
Saya Kedar - Teacher (Group 2)
Saya holds a Music Therapy Degree from Levinksi Seminar for Education as well as a Teaching Certificate in Special Education. Her professional journey began as a music therapist, interning in Tel Hashomer’s Child Development Nursery. From there, she transitioned to the role of educator in Oakland, California, where she studied and taught in a nursery school that practices learning through play and authentic experience. This unique opportunity in the U.S., where she worked for 6 years, fundamentally shaped her educational approach, which she brought back to her work in private nurseries in Tel Aviv. This is Saya’s tenth year as a nursery teacher and she is thrilled to be a part of a school which believes in experiential and social learning, that views the child as someone that has the potential to influence and belong to a community, and strives to create joyful and authentic experiences every day.
Liad Sasi - PM Teacher (Group 2)
Liad is a passionate mother, caregiver and educator. Originally from the United States, she emigrated to Israel after she completed her degree in Psychology with an emphasis on Early Education. In the past, she has worked as a behavioral therapist guiding, teaching and supporting young children with autism and learning disabilities in both the school and home setting. Liad believes wholeheartedly that children thrive in a positive supportive environment that emphasizes fun and play. After giving birth to her gorgeous baby boy this passion for childcare and education has only deepened. Liad believes The JECC's progressive and open environment is a natural fit and she could not be more excited to begin this journey!
Yael Hess - Teacher (Group 3)
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Yael has been living in Israel and teaching in bilingual preschools over the past 7 years. The JECC is exactly the type of place where Yael feels most at home, helping to build a new "family" with strong roots and plenty of room to grow. Her respect for children and adults alike helps to create a supportive environment for optimal learning. She has encountered many teachers in her career, but the most important lessons she has learned have come from the children themselves. Excited to be part of this new team, Yael is ready to help create meaningful learning experiences and have a lot of fun along the way!
Cedrik Peretz - Teacher (Group 3)
Cedrik decided to work in education in order to affect positive change in the world and foster a sense of compassion in very young children. After graduating from Seminar Hakibutzim with a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education, he has amassed several years of teaching experience working in different nurseries and schools in Israel, all of which have informed and enriched his educational approach. As an educator, his primary responsibility is to create environments that enable and support self-discovery, provide both physically and emotionally safety, and fit each child’s needs. Cedrick believes that full cooperation between parent and teacher, built on mutual understanding of shared principles, is critical to the success of each child’s school experience. Cedrik wants to listen, give, laugh, show interest, be curious, and spark curiosity in all of the children he teaches.
Efrat Shahar - Teacher (Group 3)
Efrat was born in Israel but grew up in the U.S., where her commitment to education began in middle school and continued throughout high school and college as she took on the roles of tutor and teaching assistant. Efrat went on to graduate with a B.A. in Elementary Education and as the years have gone by, found that teaching continues to be her passion. After graduating, she taught for three years at a public school where she implemented a bilingual English/Chinese immersion program. Last summer, Efrat moved back to Israel to complete her M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language and is looking forward to starting her teaching career in Israel at The JECC.
Emma Sorokin - PM Teacher (Group 3)
Emma has many years of experience working with young children. As a certified art therapist, she believes that creativity, as well as social and emotional development is a crucial aspect of young children’s lives. Emma loves working with different art materials and encouraging an enriching dialogue through art. Her favorite part of working with children is being a part of their experience and encouraging them to play and expand their imagination. She is excited to be joining a team that views teaching through the lens of values-based education.
Irit Davidovich - Teacher (Group 4)
After Irit completed her Bachelor's degree in Special Early Childhood Education at Seminar Hakibutzim, she worked in a nursery school inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to education. Irit believes in the building of a community in which each member takes an active role in the life of the school. She views the children as equal members of this community, partners in everything that happens both inside the four walls of the building and outside. Irit sees the Reggio approach as not just an education philosophy but a way of life. She believes very deeply in children’s natural competence and their ability to express themselves in their environment. For Irit, documentation is a critical tool in discovering the learning process the children go through as well as understanding her own personal development as an educator. Irit lives in Tel Aviv with her husband Yonatan and their two young sons - Uri and Noam.
Ryan Rakover - Teacher (Group 4)
Ryan was born in the U.S. but lived in different places in the world with his family, from Hong Kong, to Taiwan, New York and Brazil. Ryan graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he studied not only Art History and Two-Dimensional Art but also Early Education Art Practices. He then worked in several schools as an art teacher before moving to Israel where he was awarded an Artist Scholarship from the Israeli Government for Art Practices. In Israel, Ryan worked as both a pre-kindergarten and art teacher in the Jerusalem American International School. Ryan moved to Tel Aviv last year and continued his work in early childhood education, this time in an English-speaking nursery in North Tel Aviv. He is looking forward to working in a progressive teaching environment where art practices are seen as a way for the children to communicate their internal world.
Shani Shemesh – Teacher (Group 4)
Shani studied early childhood education at Seminar HaKibutzim, focusing on the Reggio Emilia approach, which greatly influences her own teaching. She sees the child as a complete human being; a capable, competent person inside a small body that wants to explore the world around him/her and learn about it. Therefore, she believes, the staff must provide the child with a rich, supporting environment and a variety of tools that will encourage the child to explore and grow at his/her own pace and in his/her own way. Shani believes in having an open dialogue between school and home and respecting each child's individuality. Shani was a part of The JECC’s teaching team in the school’s first year and is looking forward to once again being a part of this empowering, creative, pedagogic experience.
Dorit Ofek - PM Teacher (Group 4)
Dorit is an American-Israeli who is fully bilingual in English and Hebrew. Her professional experience includes years of working with children in several capacities, including counseling, teaching, and writing and presenting children's stories. Dorit's educational approach focuses on respect towards the children and among them. She is a strong believer in the mind-body connection and in her work with children likes to include elements from yoga and chi-kong. Dorit has two sons and a tiny dog. She loves working with children and looks forward to a happy and productive year together.
Sarina Dor - Floater
Sarina graduated from American University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in public health. Throughout college, Sarina volunteered as a mentor, tutoring children in the Washington DC area. Her passion for working with kids inspired her to come to Israel for a 10-month teaching fellowship. Although living and teaching in a foreign country had its challenges, the relationships she made with her students and co-teachers have only strengthened her love of teaching. Sarina has always been sensitive to the quieter, more hesitant children who need a little extra care and encouragement to join in. She is interested in supporting and strengthening all children’s natural curiosity, creativity and ability to express themselves. She is very excited to work alongside a team of passionate and experienced educators.
Naama Friedlander - Floater
Naama is a mother of two children (one of whom attends The JECC) and is connected to nature through healthy cooking, cycling expeditions, and herbal medicine. Naama sees children as the reflection of both their parents and their society - a mirror free from judgement or limitation. Through her relationship with children, Naama stays connected to her inner child, allowing herself to learn as much from them as they learn from her. After searching for an approach that suits her family and gaining an understanding that community and society are the sources of happiness for the individual, Naama discovered The JECC and looks forward to teaching and learning, dreaming and creating, loving and laughing together with the children, teachers, and parents. Naama will be working at The JECC as a part-time floater while balancing her time as a Civics teacher in a Tel Aviv high school.
Matthew Schultz – Workshop Specialist
Matthew is an early childhood educator and a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College class of 2010. He has worked as a preschool teacher both in Tel Aviv and New York City. Matthew loves working with children because he has a lot of respect for childhood. He believes that literacy is best fostered in children by developing a love of listening to and telling their own stories.
Michal Zori – School Chef
Michal is a mom, an Illustrator, and a yoga teacher. During the years that she worked as an illustrator, she taught young children and teenagers comics illustration and worked in nursery schools. She also had the opportunity to cook quite a lot, primarily for her own children. When she began, she was not familiar with the term “slow cooking” but quickly realized she has always naturally cooked this way. Michal believes that healthy, home-cooked food, prepared by yourself or loved ones always taste better. Michal was an integral part of the team in the first year of the school cooking delicious healthy meals, helping the children to adjust to communal eating and supporting the team.
Nurit Gildor - Co-Founder and Director of Operations
Nurit worked for more than a decade as a Human Resources Director in various companies in London before returning to Israel in 2013. Arriving home with two English-speaking girls, Nurit was searching for progressive bilingual schools in Israel to support her children’s language acquisition, but discovered there are very few options available. Subsequently, she founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education and English in 2014, which aims to create and promote English immersion educational programs in Israel. In 2014 the foundation established partnerships with public schools in Tel Aviv and run English immersion after-school programs for children in these schools. In 2015 the organization decided to expand its vision to include bilingual education for early childhood, and together with Rachel Fink, she founded The JECC. Nurit believes that children acquire a second language best through daily exposure to the language in fun and interesting activities (a method often referred to as immersion) rather than by a conventional frontal teaching. She views the Reggio Emilia approach as a natural fit for language immersion programs.
Rachel Fink – Co-Founder and Director of Pedagogy
For Rachel, The JECC, is the realization of a dream that she has had since the day she stepped off the plane as a new immigrant, armed with more than a decade of teaching experience in private schools in New York City and an abiding love for Israel and its people. Over the last six years, she has immersed herself in the Israeli early childhood education system, bringing the experience and passion developed in America to Israeli nursery schools. Her experiences both in America and Israel, and the mentors and master teachers she has encountered along the way, have shaped the teacher she is and the model for the school. Rachel’s commitment to improving the quality of education in Israel has only deepened with the birth of her two children. She wants their (and other Israeli children’s) earliest years of school to be filled with joyful learning and meaningful experiences. After an incredible inaugural year, Rachel is thrilled to be part of the leadership team that will take The JECC into its next iteration.