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

Jewish Academy of Orlando launches inaugural Transitional Kindergarten


September 13, 2019

Jewish Academy of Orlando has launched a new academic program to serve the community. The school welcomed students to its new Transitional Kindergarten for the 2019-20 school year. TK 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.

"We are finding more and more that an extra year of maturational growth has long-term positive impacts on a child's social, emotional, and academic success. The gift of time is truly one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children. Transitional Kindergarten will provide parents with a developmentally appropriate, research-based program  which grants children that gift. Every child develops as they are meant to develop, and our current educational structure doesn't always allow or support this process. Programs such as TK are designed with the whole child in mind and not an arbitrary date on a calendar. I feel fortunate to partner with JAO as they provide a much needed option for families and for our children as we prepare them for their best life," said Melissa Youngblood, Early Childhood director of the Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC).

Instead of remaining in Pre-K for another year, students in the TK program are provided the opportunity to transition to a new school, Jewish Academy of Orlando. The program is housed, managed, and directed by Jewish Academy of Orlando with the cooperation, of the JCC's ECLC leadership team. The class is deliberately small, with an average 6:1 student to teacher ratio, to provide students with the individualized attention they need during this transitional period.  

TK allows students to develop both social-emotional skills and fine and gross motor skills in a warm environment. The students are challenged academically in a developmentally appropriate manner. They participate in cooperative learning activities and unique learning experiences, including virtual field trips around the world using VR headsets.

The inaugural class is led by Jessica Landau, a passionate teaching professional with expertise in teaching young learners in both elementary and preschool.  

"My goal is to make learning fun in a variety of ways," Landau stated. "I want to nurture their curiosity and, from a social-emotional standpoint, help them prepare for kindergarten." 

Students have classes in creative spaces such as the Innovation Lab, perform on the WJAO news broadcast, participate in hands-on learning activities and purposeful playtime. TK students have the benefits of being a JAO student, including classes in Hebrew, Judaic Studies, P.E., art, and music. They participate in regular classroom routines including individualized and small group learning opportunities with extra breaks built in to give these young learners time to move.

"The program is designed to create lifelong learners," stated Nikki Buyna, director of Academics. "Our Transitional Kindergarten is a purposeful opportunity to foster each student's curiosity, encourage a love of learning, and support an environment of positive social-emotional and academic growth."

School counselor Danielle Glover added, "Social and emotional growth is key to a child's success, long-term mental wellness and healthy sense of self. The TK program will provide an intentional learning space for children to develop the foundational skills necessary to be successful, happy, and confident in the academic years that follow." 

"Families in our community voiced a need for a transitional year before their child enters Kindergarten. Jewish Academy's TK program provides an experience for children to develop all of the skills necessary to be successful in Kindergarten and the rest of the elementary school years," stated Alan Rusonik, head of school. "Our program is designed around an age-appropriate curriculum that is differentiated for individual learners," Rusonik added, "We are happy to serve the community in this way and encourage and nourish our kids' love of learning."

Jewish Academy of Orlando serves central Florida students of all faiths from transitional  kindergarten through fifth grade. 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: jewishacademyorlando.org or follow the school on Facebook facebook.com/JewishAcademyOrlando.


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