Jewish Academy of Orlando offers a robust curriculum focusing on the whole child


February 8, 2019

Jewish Academy of Orlando marked the mid-way point of the academic year with strong academics, whole-child enrichment, teacher development, community partnerships, arts and new equipment in its exciting Innovation Lab.

For the fourth year in a row, JAO students, on average, performed at least two grade levels ahead of their peers nationwide. The school uses the Iowa Test each spring to compare students' scores to national norms in Reading, Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies and Science. The assessment is also an indicator to gauge just how well students have achieved benchmarks at each grade level.

The school believes that through differentiated learning, the teachers are empowered to increase the speed and depth at which a student covers material. This facilitates instruction beyond a child's current grade level to more challenging material. "We are delighted to see that our Iowa scores indicate that our curriculum, teaching techniques, philosophies, and faculty ensure that our students reach their full potential," said Nikki Buyna, director of academics.

In addition, the school continued with gifted training for the entire faculty, which is scheduled to complete at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.  

"From the coding and robotics teacher to the Hebrew language teachers, all faculty are participating in the training," Head of School Alan Rusonik stated.

Next year the school will offer a transitional kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is a grade that serves as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten, providing students time to develop fundamental skills needed for success in an academic setting. The program will be housed, managed and directed by Jewish Academy of Orlando with the cooperation, experience, and expertise of the JCC's ECLC leadership team.

Jewish Academy values the Orlando community. They have created many programs throughout the community to teach Jewish values, support the community-at-large and also access resources for the school.

The school made Sukkot and Simchat Torah extra special this year by celebrating with Temple Israel and Congregation Ohev Shalom. These events showed our commitment to Jewish values, Jewish tradition and Jewish community.  

The school also partnered with Jewish Family Services to deliver whole-child education and parent enrichment. The arrangement includes a guidance counselor to work with families and to provide in-class guidance lessons on a bi-weekly basis. The counselor is available for parents and students for individual needs and provides weekly developmental communication to some of the grades. The JAO/JFS partnership also supports parents of the community by offering "Parenting the Whole Child" workshops. JFS's Brenda Chappell delivers parenting sessions that address the social and emotional needs of children and their families.  

"We are grateful for the contributions that our community partnerships bring to our students and their families," stated Rusonik. "We look forward to finding more ways that our organizations can work together to better our children, our families and change the world."

In order to further support the school's commitment to Whole-Child education, Jewish Academy of Orlando extended recess for all grades to 45 minutes. In addition to extended recess time, lunch for all grades was increased to 30 minutes, and a mid-morning break of 15 minutes was included in the daily schedule. The additional time is designed needed to give the children more opportunity for social and emotional growth to futher support the school's holistic approach to educating mindful and well-rounded children.

Another highlight is the fine arts program; it has grown and truly sets the school apart. JAO was one of 10 schools selected to participate in a grant by the highly prestigious Teacher Institute for the Arts program, sponsored by Kol HaOt Art Institute of Jerusalem. This program is run under the auspices of American/Israeli artist David Moss. Teachers were trained to utilize cutting-edge techniques to integrate art and Judaic studies. As a result, Jewish Academy of Orlando broke ground for its new Kindness Garden which will be a segment of the campus playground and will be dedicated in early spring.   

Nikki Buyna, director of Academics, stated, "Jewish Academy truly believes in educating the whole child, and we have a dual-focus as educators. We foster both academic excellence and social-emotional growth, cultivating values of kindness, self-awareness, mindfulness, and character."

To further this thought, Rusonik added, "We are extremely proud of our students' academic achievements; we are focused on graduating children that are happy, confident, love to learn, and know how to get along with their peers; students that are ready for the world!"

Jewish Academy of Orlando serves Central Florida students of all faiths from grades kindergarten through fifth. The school delivers a whole-child education fostering academic excellence and character education rooted in Jewish values. Jewish Academy of Orlando is accredited by the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

To learn more about Jewish Academy of Orlando, please visit: or follow the school on Facebook


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