Gani Preschool of the Arts
Today we are meeting Nechama farkash, administrative director, and Dorit Hayardeni, a senior teacher at Gani Preschool of the Arts, a nurturing Jewish preschool in Issaquah. The preschool is located on a 3 acre green area, surrounded by trees and nature trails and conveniently located only minutes away from the I-90 freeway.
Nechama, the director, resides in the adjacent house; she greets me with a steaming hot cup of tea and takes me on a tour. The preschool was established about 5 years ago, filling the need for a Jewish preschool in the area. Since then the preschool grew and developed, moved into a designated building with state-of-the-art equipment, housing 21 children. The children aging 2 – 5 years old, are divided into a few age groups. Group sizes are kept small to allow for personal attention for each and every child.
Gani preschool is open for everyone, and provides a positive experience of universal Jewish values like compassion, mutual assistance, and respect – for parents, for one another and for the environment. Nature is beloved and respected, when the preschool structure was built, mature trees had to be removed to make room. The trees trunks were reused and repurposed as beautiful benches, arranged around a small fire pit. The shady corner is a perfect spot for reading stories, working on messy art projects and of course enjoying the Lag Baomer traditional bonfire. In addition, new trees were planted. Natural cleaning products are used whenever possible and recycling is always encouraged.
Dorit, the senior teacher has over 24 years of experience as a teacher in Israel, China and Washington. “This is an Israeli preschool in every aspect, the learning materials match the Israeli program, and the kids also learn English reading, writing, science, and math, everything they need to come well prepared to Kindergarten”. The preschool programs are conducted in both English and Hebrew, but Russian is also spoken, which results in an enriching tri-lingual experience.
The preschool works according to the Howard Gardener philosophy that emphasizes the integration of academic disciplines in the child’s daily life and activity. For example, this time of year when learning addition, the kids count Hamentashen. When learning about dressing up for Purim, they also talk about animal camouflage in nature. This way, the two main goals of the preschool are obtained: enhancing the children’s Jewish identity with a sense of pride as well as self-confidence and academic preparedness for Kindergarten. Fun and play-time are not forgotten, and the kids also enjoy arts and crafts, drama, music and of course playground time. Holidays are celebrated with Purim being the highlight of the year with a whole month of celebrations ending with a magical feast in a fully decorated palace.
Parents will be delighted to know that a hot and nutritious lunch is served daily, accompanied with freshly cut fruits and vegetables. Birthday parties are a big deal here and are celebrated once a month. All the kids bake and decorate cupcakes which they get to eat as a desert after lunch, parents are invited to join the party and sing along in Hebrew and English and the birthday kids enjoy presents like personalized drawings from their friends and a special meaningful gift like Tzedakah box or candle holders.
What makes Gani preschool so special?
Nechama and Dorit both talk about the warm and family-like atmosphere in the preschool. Kids and staff share closeness and care for each other, when someone is sick; everybody is concerned and want to help. In the mornings you can find a small line of girls waiting for Morah Hanna to do their hair in her special loving way and it is not uncommon to see children crying when it’s time to go home at the end of the day.
Dorit says that the most amazing thing is to see the older kids helping and teaching the younger kids, treating them like loving siblings. “I enjoy coming to work in the morning, the staff is supportive and great, and children come in happily and are sad to leave”. Nechama tells me that in her family the saying goes: “If you have a hard, stressful day, spend a few minutes in the preschool and all your troubles will melt away”, the children’s happiness and excitement is real, genuine and contagious…
Tips for happy and calm children and parents:
Morning farewell – transitions can be challenging for many children and morning farewell can be hard on child and parent alike. Dorit recommends keeping it short and sweet. A warm hug, a kiss and a quick explanation about pickup at the end of the day can set up the expectations and ensure the child that all is well. Now is the time to leave calmly and entrust your precious little one in the loving hands of the experienced staff that will take it from there.
Maintain constant and healthy communication with the staff – It’s helpful and important to share meaningful experiences in your child’s life with the staff. This is true both for positive experience, like an exciting grandparents visit or a long trip, and also for less joyful events. Extra support and attention form the staff always works wonders.
During the summer, a fun summer camp is also hosted on the grounds. Day trips, pool sessions, special enrichment activities and many attractions. Transportation from Bellevue and Redmond. Early bird discount is available, for more details click here.