Building off of the success of last summer’s event, we are proud to introduce the second annual Come Learn with Us series. This two-day event will feature full- and half-day learning opportunities for those who work with young children in the early childhood years: teachers and administrators, in both the public and private sector. The workshops will focus on progressive ideas such as using democracy in the creation of classroom communities, co-constructed curricula, Reggio-inspired approaches, and including all children as citizens and learners. The conference is timed to reinvigorate, inspire, and challenge educators just before they go back for the start of the school year.


  • Register via the JCC Manhattan website by clicking here for August 30 and here for August 31.
  • Participants can register for full-day or half-day workshops on either or both days. Registration for each workshop must be done individually.
  • Registration is $100 for a full-day workshop or $50 for a half-day workshop.
  • Each workshop will be limited to 20-25 participants.
  • Lunch is provided both days for all participants.
  • For questions about conference registration, please call JCC Manhattan's Registration Department at 646-505-5708. For questions about the conference itself, please email Noah Hichenberg at nhichenberg@jccmanhattan.org.
  • Schedule overview for Wednesday, August 30Morning (10 am-1 pm): Yael Kahn Pinto and Jacqueline Marks; Afternoon (2 pm-5 pm): Jennifer Carvajal; Full day (10 am-5 pm): Rick Ellis; Jean Schreiber; Betsy McKenna, Julia Bosch and Robin Koo.
  • Schedule overview for Thursday, August 31Morning (10 am-1 pm): Nancy Siegel; Afternoon (2 pm-5 pm): Jennifer Aziz and Jessica Bieber; Yeshnaya Dougherty; Full day (10 am-5 pm): Paola Trigari; Fretta Reitzes; Renee Dinnerstein.

Cosponsored by the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at JCC Manhattan, Teaching Beyond the Square, Jewish Early Childhood Association (JECA), The Jewish Education Project, and Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day School.

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Come Learn With: Yael Kahn Pinto and Jacqueline Marks (10 am-1 pm)
Teachers as Leaders

In this workshop, we will examine the importance and benefit of creating a culture where everyone is a stakeholder in the school community, and how empowering teachers contributes to this ideal. Participants will be encouraged to think beyond the role of the teacher in the classroom, and will examine and create models of shared and distributed leadership. Participants will be learning with Yael Kahn Pinto, M.S.Ed, Early Childhood Consultant at the Jewish Education Project; Jacqueline Marks, M.S. Ed, Director at Educational Alliance Preschool; and a cohort of teacher leaders from top schools around New York City, who have been studying this topic together throughout the year. The teachers will also be sharing examples of their own leadership projects and how they are working to expand their roles within their schools.

Come Learn With: Jennifer Carvajal (2 -5 pm)
Creative Ways to Incorporate Literacy Skills into a Progressive Classroom

With increasing expectations for young children to gain academic literacy skills at an early age, how can teachers prepare their preschoolers for kindergarten while also honoring their progressive and play-based approaches to teaching? Jennifer Carvajal will share her strategies for infusing traditional academic skills into a Reggio-inspired classroom, sharing real examples from her own classroom and strategies she has developed in her work for Teaching Beyond the Square as a coach and consultant to schools in the NYC metro area. This workshop will include identifying the unexpected ways that children can develop literacy skills and fine-tuning storytime and read-aloud methods. Participants will walk away with a "toolbox" of literacy strategies and a plan to incorporate them into their classrooms.

Come Learn With: Rick Ellis (10 am-5 pm)
Reggio Emilia: Bringing Philosophy and Practice to America

Start the morning with an overview of the theoretical influences of the Reggio philosophy and the developmentally appropriate early childhood practices that mesh with it, as well as its historical origins. In the afternoon, participants will experience examples of art provocations in a hands-on attempt to bring theory and practice into harmony. Using everyday materials, we will create, then discuss the significance of the work and how to use appropriate teacher language to discuss it and validate children’s work without judging it.

Come learn with Rick Ellis, M.Ed., adjunct professor of early childhood education at Bank Street College, as well as at Rider University, who teaches a short course about the Reggio philosophy, based on his visit to Italy and the schools. In addition to working at the college level, he does a variety of consulting projects for teachers and parents in the field of early childhood. Most recently he led a Reggio study in Stockholm.

Come Learn With: Jean Schreiber (10 am-5 pm)
Go to the Source: Teachers Talking with Teachers to Improve Team Dynamics

A successful teaching team is a complex and delicately balanced relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and the ability to share and listen with an open mind. We'll explore ways to create a successful school environment leading to more competent and confident children, healthier partnerships with parents, and a more fulfilling workplace for teachers and administrators. Please come prepared to engage fully!

Come learn with Jean Schreiber, an early childhood educational consultant in the greater New York metropolitan area and instructor in the Continuing Professional Studies Program at Bank Street College of Education. For over two decades, Jean has developed and directed early childhood programs and parenting centers. She serves as a consultant to early childhood and elementary school programs and provides guidance to parents in both individual and group settings.

Come Learn With: Betsy McKenna (10 am-5 pm)
Building a CULTURE of Dynamic Leadership

Culture affects every aspect of our school community!

Are you interested in examining, strengthening, and reimagining your school culture? Do you believe that every role within your school community carries leadership responsibilities? If so, join us as we explore ways to cultivate a collaborative, participatory, and positive culture. This session is designed for existing or emerging school directors and will include the following key topics that influence and shape behaviors and attitudes within your school:

Identifying Key Cultural Frames and Drivers

Working to One’s Full Potential: Inspiring and Activating Your Teaching and Learning Community

In addition, two real-time mini-coaching sessions will be integrated into the daylong workshop. Participants will design a series of Culture Shift Action Steps to explore upon return to their school site.

Come learn with Betsy McKenna, founder of Exponential Returns, LLC, who brings 30 years of experience in the field of education. She is a certified coach through Columbia University’s Coaching Certification Program and currently works on leadership coaching and educational consulting. Betsy is a lifelong learner who is passionate about building progressive academic communities that embody 21st-century teaching and learning.  For more, visit www.ExponentialReturns.org.

Come Learn With: Julia Bosch and Robin Koo (10 am-5 pm)
Creative Experiences for Children

Come learn with Julia Bosch and Robin Koo in a workshop that encourages educators and parents opportunities to expand on the creative experiences they offer to young children. The workshop begins with a presentation on the role of creative experiences in an early childhood classroom, and a review of milestones in children's artistic development. We will discuss ways to set up art and writing areas to support independent art making, symbolic development, literacy, and a culture of collaboration. We will explore the role of the adult in children's art-making experiences, including language used and methods that facilitate reflection and community. Participants will engage with a variety of art media and materials, including printmaking, "dry collage" or "arrangements" with found and natural materials, drawing, paper and tape, and clay. Robin and Julia will share examples of documentation from the Studios at Madison Avenue Presbyterian and Beginnings Nursery School, and help participants develop a plan for setting up classrooms and designing creative experiences for the new school year. This workshop will focus on children ages 2 through 6.


Come Learn With: Nancy Siegel (10 am-1 pm)
Mindfulness in the Early Childhood Classroom

This experiential workshop is facilitated by Nancy Siegel, an educational consultant specializing in mindfulness education and children’s yoga teacher training.  Participants will learn age-appropriate and easy-to-use mindfulness techniques for the early childhood classroom to reduce stress and anxiety for both teachers and students, improve emotional regulation, create successful classroom transitions, promote effective classroom management, improve behavior, and foster a safe, nurturing learning environment that encourages creativity and a sense of calm.

Come learn with Nancy Siegel, who has an M.A. in Educational Leadership and is a Yoga Alliance registered children’s and adult yoga teacher and teacher trainer.  Nancy began her career in the early childhood classroom, and this workshop will reflect the way her programing has resonated with educators, school leaders, parents, and children in her more than 25 years in the field of education.  Participants will leave feeling rejuvenated, revitalized, and relaxed, and leave with many takeaways to enhance their own sense of well-being, which they can immediately translate into their early childhood classrooms.

Come Learn With: Jennifer Aziz and Jessica Bieber (2-5 pm)
How Does Curriculum Emerge in a Toddlers and Twos Classroom? 
A dialogue on supporting the work and explorations of our youngest children

What does “curriculum” look like in a toddlers and twos class? How can we support development and learning at an early age in a way that is age-appropriate, that honors each child and family? Jennifer Aziz and Jessica Bieber have been teaching toddlers in Reggio-inspired schools in D.C. and New York City and will share examples of projects and explorations from their classrooms. Through examples and dialogue, Jennifer and Jessica will support participants in developing a vision for the new school year, as well as share examples and suggestions on supporting and including families in the life of the classroom.

Come Learn With: Yeshnaya Dougherty (2-5 pm)
Establishing Systems for Emergent Curriculum

Come learn with Yeshnaya Dougherty, M.Ed., associate program director of Teaching Beyond the Square. Yeshnaya has used her experience adapting the Reggio Emilia approach in progressive New York City schools, including Blue School and Beginnings Nursery School, to develop systems that empower and inspire children to cocreate curriculum that fosters creativity, collaboration, and academic learning in the classroom. In this presentation, Yeshnaya will introduce participants to classroom systems that promote reflective and inquiry-based learning throughout the school year. These systems are designed to highlight emergent curriculum development, taking a closer look at practices such as observing children in open-ended play to documenting their work and ideas following a systematic cycle of inquiry. Yeshnaya hopes to support educators and administrators with classroom setup and design as they enter a new school year.  Participants will take part in a hands-on activity, exploring open-ended materials and documenting the process.

Come Learn With: Paola Trigari (10 am-5 pm)
Social-Constructivism and the Value of Empowering Children

We use an actual year-long preschool classroom investigation to reflect on the meaning of social-constructivism and the value of empowering children. The children take charge of their life at school, taking ownership of decisions, while developing complex strategies for group negotiation.

Come learn with Paola Trigari, an educational consultant on the Constructivism, Social-Constructivism, and the Project-oriented and Reggio Emilia-inspired educational philosophies. Paola worked as pedagogical and program director of the Reggio-inspired Inquiry based International Italian School in San Francisco (La Scuola of SF). Paola holds seminars and consulting appointments throughout the U.S. and Europe. She consults for preschools and primary schools, and collaborates with universities. She is the co-director of a new post-graduate program in Early Childhood and Primary Education at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Paola obtained her ECE qualifications in San Francisco. She holds a BA from Bocconi University in Milan and an MSc in economics from UPF (Barcelona) with a final thesis on the returns to education. She has lived and worked in Paris, Sao Paulo, Milan, London, San Francisco, Barcelona, and New York. A native Italian speaker, Paola also speaks English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Come Learn With: Renee Dinnerstein (10 am-5 pm)
The Classroom Speaks: Transforming the Classroom into a Laboratory for Learning

In this workshop we will discuss how to transform a room into a laboratory for learning, a place where children build things, conduct experiments, create innovative projects, read fascinating books, write original stories, use technology and texts to find out information, and feel free to imagine and try out possibilities. We will think carefully about how to create a space where children grow big ideas, make new friends, and dig deeply into exciting investigations.

The workshop will address:

  • Arranging the furniture and materials to make the best use of classroom space.
  • Considering the different centers that children will use at the beginning of the school year and  creating dedicated areas that will be permanent throughout the year, as well as how to make trade-offs when space is limited.
  • What materials will be necessary at the start of the school year.
  • Scheduling--creating a daily schedule that satisfies the demands of the administration yet doesn’t rush children through the day like a train keeping to a timetable

We will have opportunities to use planning templates for space, time, center planning, and observations. There will be time for questions and answers.

This workshop is geared toward Pre-K, kindergarten, and first-grade teachers.

Come learn with Renée Dinnerstein, an early childhood educator with over 40 years’ experience. She has taught both in Italy and the United States. She spent 18 years as an early childhood teacher at PS 321, one of New York City’s leading elementary schools, and was the teacher-director of the Children’s School early childhood inclusion annex. She worked as an early childhood staff developer in the New York City Department of Education, Division of Instructional Support, where she wrote curriculum, led study groups and summer institutes, and helped write the New York City Pre Kindergarten Standards. Renée, a past member of the Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project Early Childhood Reading “think tank,” taught in the project’s summer institutes and presented calendar days for kindergarten and first-grade teachers. She received the Bank Street Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award in 1999. Her book Choice Time: How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play (Pre-K – Second Grade) was published by Heinemann in 2016. Her blog, Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration, and Play, can be found at www.investigatingchoicetime.com.