Join us for the third annual Come Learn with Us conference. This two-day event will feature full- and half-day learning opportunities for early childhood educators. The conference is timed to reinvigorate, inspire, and challenge educators just before they go back for the start of the school year. Each workshop will include hands-on interactive components and highlight clear, actionable takeaways. New this year, participants will have an opportunity for ongoing learning or midyear check-in to extend their learning well past the conference is over. Click the link under each session title below to register for individual workshops or use the group form to register multiple teachers together.


  • Registration and workshop details will be available on this page in the spring
  • Participants can register for full- or half-day workshops on either or both days
  • Several workshops will be offered each day
  • Full-day workshops are $100, half-day workshops $50
  • Registration includes a kosher lunch from 1-2 pm both days
  • Group registration will be available
  • Discounts are available for schools sending their whole teaching staff, as well as for members of JECA
  • New this year, we are committed to providing a limited amount of scholarships for teachers who do not receive registration reimbursement from their schools
  • Please direct all questions to Aida Mehmeti at azaga@jccmanhattan.org

WED, AUG 29 +  THU, AUG 30, 10 AM-5 PM
Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue @76th Street

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




Come Learn With: Jennifer Carvajal (10 am-1 pm)
Behind the Scenes: Intentional Planning in a Progressive Classroom

Progressive,  child-centered, play-based classrooms seem to run smoothly from an outsider's perspective. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find many systems and planning components that keep the classroom organized and intentional. This organization allows for curriculum threads to emerge and provides an environment for our little learners to thrive! Come learn how teachers can create a safe, inspiring, and intentional environment where children can be free to explore and learn on their own. We will discuss beginning-of-the-year preparations, classroom environments, and observational/note-taking strategies.

Jennifer Carvajal, MEd, is the senior program and curriculum director of Teaching Beyond the Square. She has a passion for literacy, emergent curriculum, and open-ended learning experiences. She has consulted for Teaching Beyond the Square since 2013, leading professional development workshops and partnering with teachers and directors in the tri-state area as they strive to take a more progressive approach to education. She has partnered with The Jewish Education Project to lead special projects and cohorts, and has presented at several conferences, including the Darien (CT) Director's Gathering, Come Learn with Us, and the Jewish Early Childhood Association's Long Island and Manhattan conferences. Jennifer taught at Beginnings Nursery School from 2002 to 2009 and participated in a study group in Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 2007. She received her BS in early childhood and elementary education from Susquehanna University and her MS in education, with a concentration in literacy, from Hunter College. 

Come Learn With: Laura Araman (10am-1pm)
Separation: The Process, the Learning, and How We Support Children Through It

We will discuss the lifelong, individualized process of separation, and how we support children's understanding and processing during it. Separation is continually on the minds of children, and presents itself through play throughout the year. We will discuss how children demonstrate what they are working through, in addition to ways that we can support their learning. We will discuss play ideas, themes and materials to have available for children to individualize the process for parents and children, and strategies that educators and parents can employ to support children as they make adjustments to school. 

Laura Araman, LCSW, MSEd, works with children and families as a child development consultant at Beginnings Nursery School, and as a developmental therapist, special education itinerant teacher (SEIT), and counselor. She has had the privilege of supporting children, parents, and teachers in multiple schools and brings these experiences to the discussion.

Come Learn With: Alex Reynolds and Alyssa Blackman (2-5pm)
Honoring the Child's Voice: Emergent Curriculum in the Early Years

In this interactive workshop, participants will explore emergent curriculum through a Reggio Emilia-inspired lens. We will explore the concept of co-constructing knowledge and partnering with children as a way to develop an ongoing curriculum. Key topics will include following children's natural interests using a co-constructive approach; using documentation as a means to build, guide, and reflect on curriculum; partnering with families; and creating a multimodal, developmentally appropriate environment to honor the 100 languages in which children learn. 

Alex Reynolds is a head teacher in the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, where she has taught 2s classes for the last four years. She holds a BM in music education from NYU and an MS in early childhood education from CUNY City College of New York. Alex has copresented on the topic of gender in the early years at the Come Learn with Us Conference in 2016 and the 2017 PEN conference.  She has also copresented at a workshop on the principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy at the 2017 Child Care Resources of Rockland Annual Early Childhood/School Age Conference. In 2017 Alex attended the Reggio Emilia International Conference in Reggio Emilia, Italy.  She is excited to return to the Come Learn With Us conference this year to copresent on emergent curriculum. 

Alyssa Blackman is an associate teacher in the older 2s/young 3s classroom at the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. She graduated with honors from Barnard College, Columbia University in 2017, where she studied psychology and German. As an undergraduate, Alyssa gained extensive teaching experience in NYC public schools, a bilingual elementary school, and most recently the Barnard Toddler Center.

Come Learn With: Noah Mencow Hichenberg (2-5 pm)
Children Change the World: Exploring the Tensions of Power in the Relationships Between Adult-Imperialism and Child-Agency

What impact do children have on the world in which they live? Workshop participants will gain an understanding of how notions of control often underlie practices within early childhood, along with strategies for how teachers can notice, and expand, the young child’s power in those same settings. This workshop is for teachers who embrace a child-led classroom and are looking for more tools to strengthen the child’s voice in their classroom. Ethnographic research from a doctoral dissertation will be presented to explore how and why adults seek to control children, how children resist being controlled, and how, ultimately, children are far more powerful than adults often notice. The workshop will focus on the daily life of young children, in areas such as walking to school, drop-off, free play, cleanup, and lunchtime. We will explore these moments in the life of a 2.5-year-old child (the research participant), with an eye toward how adults attempt to control her and how she ultimately speaks up and acts against their expectations of conformity. This workshop moves out of the traditional developmental paradigm in which the world changes children (through teachers’ pedagogy and parents’ child-rearing strategies) and into one in which children change the world. 

Noah Mencow Hichenberg is the founder of the Come Learn With Us conference and has watched it grow from 25 participants in 2015 to 275 in 2017. Noah has served as the school director at the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan for the past five years, prior to which he taught in the school’s 3s program. Noah’s master’s degree is in early childhood/childhood education, and he is currently working toward his doctoral degree in early childhood education at Teachers College, Columbia University. The title of his dissertation is “The Agency and Voice of the Young Child During Her Inaugural Encounter with Nursery School.” As part of the group NYC Encounters with Reggio Emilia, Noah worked to coordinate “The Wonder of Learning” exhibit in 2015 as well as co-chair the conference, “Dialogue of Two Cities: NYC and Reggio Emilia,” held at the 92Y concurrently with the exhibit. 

Come Learn With: Jean Schreiber (10 am-5 pm)
Working as a Team in a Reggio-Inspired School: The Joys and Challenges

The journey to a successful teaching team is filled with joys as well as challenges. Come learn strategies and techniques to build mutual respect, trust, a shared vision, and flexibility. You will take away hands-on activities to start the school year on the right foot and to continue the conversation as the year unfolds. Together we will explore the complex dynamics of relationship-building, and learn effective ways to listen as well as give feedback. Through her work as the parent support and curriculum coordinator at the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jean knows intimately the culture of a Reggio-inspired school and the demands and expectations for the teaching team.

Jean Schreiber is an early childhood educational consultant in the greater New York metropolitan area who, for over two decades, has developed and directed early childhood programs and parenting centers. She earned her MS in early childhood education from Bank Street College of Education where she is an instructor in the Continuing Professional Studies Program. An engaging and highly informative speaker, Jean presents her workshops across the country on topics such as fostering the social and emotional development of young children, creating developmentally appropriate classroom experiences, and supporting the emotional and professional growth of parents and educators. She serves as a consultant to a wide variety of early childhood and elementary school programs and provides guidance to parents in both individual and group settings.

Come Learn With: Paola Trigari (10 am-5 pm)
Social-Constructivism and Long-Term Strategies for Project Work

In this session, we will use actual long-term preschool investigations to reflect on the strategies to promote the social construction of knowledge through group project work. We’ll discuss in depth the multiple strategies to keep project work alive and to ensure high levels of thinking; to keep relaunching and stretching the children’s thinking/wondering, and to keep the children actively engaged

Paola Trigari is an educational consultant on project based education, constructivism, social-constructivism, and the Reggio Emilia-inspired educational philosophy, and has been regularly visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy. Paola holds seminars and consulting appointments throughout the US and Europe. She consults for preschools, primary, and secondary schools, and collaborates with universities and pedagogical institutions. She is the co-director of a new post-graduate program in early childhood and primary education at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. Paola worked as pedagogical director and program director of the Reggio-inspired Inquiry-based International Italian School in San Francisco (La Scuola of SF). Paola obtained her ECE qualifications in San Francisco. She also holds a BA from Bocconi University in Milan and an MS in economics from UPF (Barcelona) with a final thesis on the Return to Education. She has an International background: native of Italy, grew up in Turin (Italy), Paris (France) and Sâo Paulo (Brazil). She then lived and worked in London (UK), San Francisco, Barcelona, and New York. An Italian native speaker, Paola is also fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Come Learn With: Julia Bosch and Renee Nikita (10 am-5 pm)
Creative Experiences For Young Children

This workshop provides educators with opportunities to expand on the creative experiences they offer to young children, beginning with a presentation on the role of creative experiences in an early childhood classroom. We will discuss ways to set up art 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 for most of the day with a variety of art media and materials, including printmaking, dry collage or arrangements with found and natural materials, drawing, cardboard and tape, and clay, focusing on process. Julia and Renee will share examples of documentation from the Studios at The Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day 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.

Julia Bosch has been teaching in the arts for 15 years and holds a MPS in art therapy form the School of Visual Arts, with a background in sculpture. She has worked with Studio in a School, teaching art to kindergarten through second-graders-, and has mentored teachers and led professional development workshops for school administrators, teachers, and parents within the New York City public school system, focusing on medium-driven, discovery-based education in drawing, painting, collage, and sculpture. Julia has collaborated with teachers in the integration of art across content areas, with the intention of encouraging authentic student learning at The Bronx Charter School. She has been the art specialist at The Madison Presbyterian Church Day School for the past 10 years, creating inspiring and open-ended provocations with art materials for young children in classroom and studio environments.

Renee Nikita has always made things and enjoys the creative process in painting and sewing. She believes that children have their own process when they create that is used as a kind of magical language to communicate. She witnessed this language of creativity for several years in different capacities. For several years, Renee has partnered with Julia Bosch at Dalton Summer Camp, working with children ages 3 through 8 in the art rooms. Currently, she has the privilege of working with babies, toddlers, and 2-year-olds at The Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church Day School. She has worked to create an afternoon program in which children visit art galleries to directly observe and be inspired by established artists. She obtained a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and and MFA from The Milton Avery School of Art at Bard College. She is a summer traveler to the Greek islands, where she finds inspiration in landscape photography.

Come Learn With: Janah Boccio, LCSW, Team Finch Consultants (10 am-5 pm)
Gender and Sexuality Development in Young Children

Students naturally adopt a range of identities, expressions, and roles as they navigate the emotional, social, and academic world of school. Regardless of how comfortable or uncomfortable adults are with these issues, gender and sexuality are at the heart of this developmental process for all children of all ages! As our 21st-century understanding of human diversity expands, educators must be able to engage with issues related to gender and sexuality competently and confidently. This workshop will focus on the concepts and language with which to create developmentally appropriate practice. Using school mission and the Gender and Sexuality Diversity framework, participants will engage with critical questions about

  • ideal conditions for learning
  • human identity development in young children
  • teaching methods and curriculum design
  • policies and programs

Whether you are a classroom teacher, an afterschool coordinator, the lower school division head, a school counselor, or a preschool assistant, this workshop is relevant to the work you do in your role every day. 
Everyone should bring a hard copy of their school’s mission statement. Please bring books and curriculum ideas to share. (There will be prizes for those who actually remember to bring these!)

Janah Boccio, LCSW, has over 12 years of experience teaching students and parents about sex and sexuality. In addition to working at an independent school in New York City, Janah maintains a psychotherapy practice, where she works with adolescents and adults, focusing mainly on anxiety, relationships, and gender and sexuality diversity issues. She writes a monthly advice column for parents and caregivers on how to answer their children’s questions about sex and sexuality. She is currently working toward her PhD in sexuality education at Widener University. Janah received her MSW from Smith College School for Social Work and her BA in psychology from Macalester College.



Come Learn With: Sabrina Landau and Ronnie Goldberg Becher (2-5 pm)
Backward Design—Planning Jewish Holidays with the End in Mind

Come learn with us as we dive into Jewish curricular content through a Reggio lens. Backward Design looks at creating curriculum by establishing goals ahead of time, before choosing activities or experiences for the students. It involves identifying the big ideas and the enduring understandings and challenges us to develop essential questions that will foster and guide the inquiry. In this workshop, we will explore how to plan for the Shabbat experience and Chanukah, from the big ideas right down to the provocations we set up for the children to explore.

We will offer our participants the opportunity to create a COP (Community of Practice) to support each other and offer a midyear zoom meeting as a check-in.

Sabrina Landau possesses years of experience in Jewish education and has worked as a preschool director, a preschool camp director, and a consultant on learning and teaching at early childhood centers across the country. She received her MA in Jewish education from Touro College and completed the doctoral program at Azrieli Graduate School. Sabrina is a proud parent of three: Yaakov, Thommie, and Goldie.

Ronnie Goldberg Becher has been involved in early childhood education since 1975. She received her bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and her master’s degree in curriculum and teaching from Teachers College at Columbia University, where she was awarded a fellowship for a reading and writing project. Ronnie is the president of JECA, the Jewish Early Childhood Association, a consortium of nursery school directors in the larger metropolitan area,  as well as an active member of the Westchester Early Childhood Directors’ Network. A frequent presenter at JECA Early Childhood Conferences, Ronnie was also the recipient of the prestigious Wexner Heritage Foundation Fellowship. Currently, Ronnie is the educational director of Beth El Nursery School in New Rochelle, New York. 

Come Learn With: Megan Pamela Ruth Madison and Kate Engle (10 am-5 pm)
Black Lives Matter. Racial Justice in Early Childhood Education

During this workshop, we will learn about ways that racism—at its intersection with other systems of oppression—impacts our lives, the lives of the children and families we serve, and the world we live in. Through reflection, discussion, and interactive activities, we will develop the skills to teach for Black lives. We will establish antiracist community agreements, develop shared language, and strengthen our ability to act for racial justice. Together, we will practice identifying ways that racism is manifesting in early childhood settings and develop strategies to advance racial equity within (and beyond) your program.

Megan Pamela Ruth Madison is a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University, studying social policy. When she’s not working on finishing up her dissertation, she works part-time as a trainer for the New York Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (PDI), Border Crossers, and JOIN for Justice. Before graduate school, Megan was a preschool teacher in Chicago. This experience grounds her dual passions for education and social justice. Megan holds a bachelor’s degree in studies in religion and a master’s degree in early childhood education. She serves on the governing boards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).

Kate Engle is an early childhood educator who has taught 3-year-olds for 11 years in New York City independent schools. She currently works with educators and parents as a trainer with Border Crossers, cofacilitating workshops on Talking About Race in the Classroom. She is an organizer with the citywide White Anti-Racist Educators in Independent Schools group and consults with schools to explore racial identity development and how white racial identity impacts educators, students, and communities.

*Scholarship funding to participate in this training may be available through the Educational Incentive Program (EIP). For more information or to apply for a scholarship, please visit ecetp.pdp.albany.edu. You may also contact EIP by email at eip-to@albany.edu, or by phone at either 800.295.9616 or 518.442.6575.

Come Learn With: Renée Dinnerstein (10 am-5 pm)
The Classroom Speaks: Transforming the Early Childhood Classroom into an Exciting Laboratory for Learning

In this workshop, we will discuss how to transform a classroom into a place where children build things, conduct experiments, create innovative projects, read fascinating books, write original stories, use technology and texts to research for information, and feel free to 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
  • Looking at what materials will be necessary at the start of the school year and how this will change over the course of the school year
  • 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
  • How kindergarten and first-grade children can use their Choice Time journals to reflect on what they did at Choice Time and what might have challenged them

We will have opportunities to work on Choice Time planning templates and also work together on interpreting choice time observations and using these interpretations to plan next steps. There will be time for questions and answers.

Renée Dinnerstein has over 50 years’ experience as an early childhood educator. She has taught both in Italy and the US and has spent 18 years as an early childhood teacher at PS 321, one of New York City’s leading elementary schools. She was the teacher-director of the Children’s School early childhood inclusion annex and worked also 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 Prekindergarten 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 (Prekindergarten–Second Grade) was published by Heinemann in August, 2016.

Come Learn With: Panel of Teachers (10 am-5 pm)
The Role of the Teacher

Complete description and registration coming soon.