Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Compassion, empathy, algebra at Jewish Academy of Orlando


With a focus on enhancing its learning environment and culture, the Jewish Academy of Orlando will be the first school in Central Florida to introduce MindUP, an innovative program designed to foster classroom learning while improving students’ overall state of well-being.

MindUP is a research-based training program for educators and children and which has been proven to reduce stress, improve academic performance, strengthen concentration and help both children and teachers thrive. Equally important, MindUP nurtures optimism and happiness in the classroom, helps eliminate bullying and aggression, increases empathy and compassion while resolving peer conflicts.

“This program has the ability to transform our culture,” said Head of School Alan Rusonik, who successfully implemented a similar program at the San Diego Jewish Academy where he served as Judaic Studies director before coming to Orlando a year ago. “This is an opportunity to improve how students and teachers interact, how they focus and how they treat each other and protect the school’s positive environment.”

MindUP was created 10 years ago by the Hawn Foundation, established by actress Goldie Hawn, who collaborated with neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and educators to develop a program that contributes to classroom learning and an environment that helps children succeed academically while also developing an overall state of well-being.

The program will be implemented across the school. Teachers and staff received training prior to the school year and will receive on-going training throughout the year. The school will host a parent information night after the start of the school year to update parents about the program.

“We have the good fortune to innovate here at Jewish Academy of Orlando, and the MindUP program will enable us to enhance not just the academic experience, but our students and teachers as individuals as well. That’s what a great school should do,” Rusonik added.


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