May 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Children Begin a Lifelong Love of Learning at Gan Rina Nursery

When Rena Taubes opened a preschool in 1978, her goal was to give young children an education, not just a safe place to be while their parents were at work. That philosophy still guides Gan Rina today.

Curriculum isn’t a term usually associated with preschool but it’s the driving force for Gan Rina’s child-centered program. “Young children are capable of learning so much,” said Rue Taubes, Rina’s granddaughter and director of the school. “Our goal is to give them a strong foundation so they can grow and learn so much more.” The children learn both secular subjects and Torah values: tefillah, brachot, Shabbat, chagim, tzedakah and midot tovot.

The focus on learning is very individual at Gan Rina. The teachers get to know each child’s ability and help all the students progress at their own level. “A child who thinks he will be successful, will be,” said Taubes. “We want them to have a love of learning and believe that it can be instilled as young as infancy. We talk positively to them and give them positive feedback. They feel capable of learning because ‘my morah told me I can.’”

The balance of warmth and education is what parent Penny Samuel likes most about Gan Rina. “All of the morot truly care for each child and nurture their individuality,” she said. “Every child is made to feel important, and they look forward to happy days filled with stimulation and friendship.”

Gan Rina has programs for children from 6 months through 3 years old. Classes are divided by age but with an understanding that children develop at varying rates; some have delays and some are gifted. The teachers are attuned to these differences and adjust teaching to the child. They can also spot red flags to recommend outside evaluations when needed.

Taubes says projects are carefully crafted and designed to teach and reinforce a lesson and not just end up on the refrigerator. And the children can practice with their families at home. “Today our parent body works long hours, and following up with children can be difficult,” Taubes said. “We want to help them participate in a meaningful way. For example, if we learn colors for Parshat Noach, we mix English and Hebrew and they take home a matching game they can play on Shabbos. The parents can interact and hear about what their children learned, see what they know and follow what’s going on in the classroom.”

This is the first year Taubes hasn’t taught her own class since joining Gan Rina in 2010. Instead, she’s involved in all of them. “I never sit down,” says Taubes. “I do circle time and projects in all the classrooms. I know each child’s cries, who their parents are, who’s getting which support services, how each one is learning. I have to be in every room, sitting with them, watching them learn so I can better tailor our programming and give feedback to parents.” Taubes isn’t the only one who knows all the children. Each teacher and floater can step right in to any classroom when there’s a need and the children feel a connection to them.

Taubes knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was a young child. She got her first lessons from her family where she saw how teachers worked with her autistic younger brother to help him progress. She started volunteering with children in fifth grade and babysat in high school, including for children with special needs. After high school she spent a year in Israel and earned a teaching certification. She returned to attend Stern College, majoring in both art and education. While in college, she worked for a law firm on cases advocating for special needs. She worked on children’s IEPs, Individualized Education Programs, making sure they got the services they needed and funding for them from the state.

Rina Taubes passed away shortly after Rue’s bat mitzvah. By the time she was older and working, her grandfather began thinking it was time to close the preschool his wife had worked so hard to create. “The teachers wanted to keep it open, both for themselves and for her,” Taubes recalled. “I said, ‘Don’t close it, I’ll do it!”

She started as a teacher with the 2-year-olds, learning the techniques and getting to know the faculty. She gradually took over the administrative part of the school, giving tours, meeting parents, managing the financial picture and keeping up with the requirements for licensing and certification of accreditation from the state. Rue Taubes became the director in 2014.

Gan Rina is still guided by Rena Taubes’ philosophy, but Rue Taubes keeps it current. “We’re very child-centered here. When I was little, a child asked my grandmother where pumpkins come from. She said ‘let’s find out,’ and drove them all to a farm. They brought back pumpkins, toasted the seeds and cooked it. I’ve done the same thing. If we’re talking about winter, and a child wants to know when snow or ice will melt, we’ll test it—warm it up in the classroom and watch.”

Every year, Taubes introduces a new program. She started a greenhouse so the kids can see how plants grow. Basil, mint, onions and carrots were recently planted. Even math and science are introduced with new and age-appropriate lessons.

Getting the children ready for kindergarten is an important goal and parents are pleased with the way Gan Rina prepares their children. “Our older son was completely prepared for pre-K academically, socially and emotionally,” said Dina Silverberg. “Our younger son is there now and he is thriving. We love the school’s mindful approach to the curriculum and social wellbeing of each child.”

All the teachers have a background in early education. But the qualification Taubes looks for most in a teacher is dedication and love of children. “We are very passionate about what we do,” said Taubes. “No one here feels this is just a job.”

The warmth extends to the parents as well. “Gan Rina is a special place for me and my family,” said Daphne Galla. “Every year since we moved to Teaneck we’ve had a child enrolled and we couldn’t be happier. The teachers are warm and nurturing and the quality of the education continues to exceed my expectations. I am grateful to have found a place where I could fully feel confident that my children are well taken care of and loved every day.”

Taubes’ children are all graduates of the school. “I was very emotional when my daughter Rina came,” she said. “She was in the school that her great-grandmother started.”

For more information about Gan Rina Nursery, 354 Maitland Avenue Teaneck, email: [email protected] or call: 201/833- 0458.

By Bracha Schwartz

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