Posted: June 14, 2017
Meet Marty Leaf
For some, camp is a summer escape. But for Marty Leaf, it’s his passion.
Marty isn’t a man of many words but his character speaks volumes as he walks down the corridors of JCC.
Marty is a resident of Reena, a home in Thornhill for individuals with developmental disabilities. He grew up going to The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp and declares it his second home.
“I love it,” exclaims Marty.
During the summer, Marty is often the first person you’ll see in the morning. His smiling face greets campers at drop off and this happy nature is enough to let you know your child is in good hands.
Marty is a true mentor figure and friend, evidenced by the onslaught of kids that run up to him for a hug or a good laugh.
He keeps old cabin photos in his backpack to show campers and share memories of the years when he too was a camper at this same camp. The nostalgia and excitement that these photos evoke remind him why he continues to reach out and connect with new people.
Marty’s been coming to the JCC for almost 19 years now and enjoys every second. His warm-hearted approach and gentle nature make him one of the most popular figures at camp and his loyalty, passion and involvement won him the prestigious Dan Shulman Community Volunteer Award last year.
As a camp volunteer, he participates in a variety of activities such as swimming, dance, drama and sports. It’s almost as though he’s reliving his own childhood through the work he does.
Marty Leaf’s JCC story is about building a sense of belonging and developing relationships that transcend decades.
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Posted: March 31, 2017
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Ready to join in the Autism Speaks Light it up Blue campaign? Around the world, on April 2nd, thousands of iconic landmarks and communities will shine blue to support people living with autism. At the Schwartz/Reisman Centre, we are no different. In addition to the blue touches you will see in our Centre, we thought we’d share this great JCC story.
Meaningful inclusion results in new friends for the whole family
Despite a shared love of Lego, trains, tennis and pizza some children have a harder time than others making friends. Such was the case for grade 4 student, Gabriel, who is on the Autism spectrum. Then, he found the Schwartz/Reisman Centre and a series of programs that have included social skills, early engineers, Sportball, karate and yoga.
It has been close to three years now and the greatest impact of these programs has been on Gabriel’s feeling of belonging and his bond with new friends.
“Gabriel skips into class and runs out with excitement,” said Elaine his mother. “When we put him in other activities he got bored or lost interest. But this one he always loves. The quality of programming, the talent of ABA instructors and the consistency of the same kids, the experiments and activities makes it so successful.”
Gabriel is not the only family member benefiting from the SRC’s inclusion programming. While Gabriel and his friend are having fun in their weekly social club, their two sisters enjoy swimming lessons together.
“I’ve also met a group of mothers that I hang out with and talk about our situations and challenges,” said Elaine. “We have a bond – they get it. If one of us has a bad day we text each other. We may live anywhere from the Beaches to Vaughan but once a week we meet at the JCC.”
It’s time the entire family looks forward to each week making Gabriel’s excitement to hang out with his new friends, quite typical.
Posted: March 14, 2017
Ten years ago Kayla Daniels was referred by JF&CS to The Jack and Pat Kay Centre Camp to, in her words, “develop who I am and make new friends”.
Kayla’s story is just one of the many success stories that come from community collaboration and outreach. It is also testament to the notion that when we give, we actually get more in return.
An amazing inspiration to her fellow staff and campers, Kayla is now in her fourth year as a counsellor. As a camper, she developed strong friendships that she believes helped her achieve personal success and navigate tough times. In addition to making new friends, camp also helped her reconnect with old friends broadening her support network.
Kayla says one of the reasons she likes being a counsellor is the ability for her to give back to campers the skills, support and confidence that she received once herself.
Her understanding and appreciation of Jewish and Israeli culture is also something she credits Centre Camp with, and something that she makes sure to pay forward. “You come to camp to have fun, but I’ve learned a lot from camp about the Jewish culture,” says Kayla. “This helps me figure out who I am and as I grow up this still shapes me.” Her first time hearing the Israeli anthem, Hatikvah, was in camp as well as many Shabbat songs and activities. Each time she is inspired, she brings that information and joy home to share with her family, especially her younger sister who is now also a Centre Camp camper.
What is Kayla Daniels’ JCC Story? It’s the message of connection, friendship, support and giving back.
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Posted: March 09, 2017
Elizabeth Greisman has always had an ongoing love affair with art.
She was born in Toronto, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her resume! If you know Elizabeth, the breadth of her experience won’t surprise you. For those unfamiliar, Elizabeth is the Cultural Arts/Visual Arts Coordinator at the Prosserman JCC and the Schwartz Reisman Centre running a full visual arts program for everyone from toddlers to seniors with a strong focus on ceramics, drawing, painting and printmaking.
No matter what class you’re interested in, you’re certainly in good hands with Elizabeth. Her expertise has been used with The National Ballet of Canada and The Tapestry Opera Company, just to name a few. With educational roots from Paris, France, Elizabeth’s work has been exhibited all over the world, including multiple disciplinary shows for Toronto’s own Nuit Blanche.She also co-curates the Nascent Art Science collective, a group of global artists and scientists dedicated to facilitating scientific concepts through art and social change.
If you can’t already tell, Elizabeth Greisman has a monumental passion for the world of art, and for sharing it with others. We sat down with her to find out more about the role that art plays in her life:
Q: How has your life been shaped by art?
Since my earliest years I have been motivated to create art works to express my individuality. I have worked in many forms, doll clothes design when young, drawing, painting, photography and textile design when older. I have often worked in a cross-disciplinary fashion with dance, science, poetry, cuisine, medicine, and horticulture in the visual arts.
Q: What inspires your creativity?
I would say that the ideas come tome fairly quickly as I view an exhibition or internalize and interpret an event. I concentrate on the emotion inherent in each response. I also enjoy organizing multi-peopled and multi-disciplinary large scale events as much as the solitary practice of the studio. It often takes a while to think of the concept. I never sketch out an artwork ahead but prefer to paint with immediacy ,a la prima.
Q: What does your position at the JCC entail?
At the JCC I am the Cultural Arts and Visual Arts Coordinator at both the Prosserman JCC and Schwartz/Reisman Centre. As such I administrate the visual arts schools for pre-school to senior adult. Our adult classes in drawing, painting and ceramics are instructed at the beginner to professional levels. We also run workshops in specialized subjects. As well I am responsible for the curating and the mounting of the visual arts exhibitions at both locations.
Q: Why were you interested in starting these programs at the JCC?Joining the JCC in this capacity provided a forum for my lifelong dream of leading my own art classes in a community based setting. I enjoy contributing to the Jewish Community.
Q: You say that teaching young children has been a life-long passion for you... what sort of joy do you get from it and why?
The creativity, inventiveness, resilience and expressiveness has always been a hallmark of creative energy. During my thirty plus years as an educator, I have always tried to maintain some of this enthusiasm and originality in all of my programs.
Q: How do you come up with different class concepts?
I base a lot of my decisions on my experience as a multifaceted international artist and educator.
Q: When you teach art, you ensure you incorporate its rich history and make cross-disciplinary references to science, math, and language... why i sit important to make these connections?
Art does not exist in isolation. It must stem from and augment other concepts as inspiration. Looking to other disciplines helps to enrich the breath of credibility and depth necessary for each individual piece.
Q: You also have an extensive background in dance, world-travel and landscape designing...do you still practice any of these things today?
I am very privileged to have been a guest visual artist of Canada’s National Ballet and the Tapestry Opera Company using skills I learned at Central St Martins School in London, England. I have a strong interest in horticulture and botanical gardens and produced a first draft of a cookbook for Le Jardin Botanique du Marnay sur Seine France while I was an artist in residence atLa Maison Verte.
Q: Why do you think it’s so important for children –or anyone at any age for that matter –to express themselves creatively?
Art showcases our creative soul and our humanity.
'The Angel Sisters' by Elizabeth Greisman'La Paris Passage' by Elizabeth Greisman at Nuit Blanche 2012
'Sensing the Shawdows' by Elizabeth Greisman at Nuit Blanche 2009Read more »
Posted: February 16, 2017
What does it mean to be "Educated"?
While re-reading Montaigne’s “On the Education of Children” over the holidays, I was reminded of the old, still very relevant, and difficult to answer question: What does it mean to be “educated”? Of course, there are myriad competing answers from across the ages. In the latter half of the 5th century B.C., Isocrates—not to be confused with Socrates—a Greek sophist and the father of education according to some, wrote that an educated person is one who has “good character”: one who manages daily circumstances well and demonstrates accurate judgment, decency, goodness, honour, and good nature. While some parents would add academic prowess to the list, it still sounds pretty good, right? So how does the Ministry of Education in Ontario answer the question of what it means to be “educated”? How does their answer fit (or not) with Isocrates’ ideals? Most importantly, what do Ontario’s schools do to achieve this aim of “educating” our youth?
Over ten years ago, former Premier McGuinty announced that Ontario was to implement a character education policy from K-12 in public schools—a commitment to engage students in developing the positive habits and characteristics of responsible citizens, thereby creating better “educated” individuals. All children in Ontario’s schools are now subjected to this initiative from the start to the finish of their education, and both students and parents have been voicing concerns about the experience over this past decade. At the most fundamental level, many have asked what problem this policy initiative is supposedly addressing. Was Ontario not already producing “educated” graduates ten years ago? And then there’s the glaring contradiction that has puzzled many: McGuinty said that the values and attributes of character development are “universal and transcend racial, religious, ethno-cultural, linguistic, and other demographic factors,” yet he also stated that there was growing need to find “common ground” on the values and attributes Ontarians hold in common. If the values and attributes of character development are indeed “universal,” why do we need to find “common ground”? Indeed, how do multiple social, religious, cultural, political, and racial voices get included in the conversation about character development—especially those of immigrant families?
They don’t. And that is largely due to the fact that the Ontario government didn’t find (or even look for) “common ground” on community values (i.e. not many people were consulted in the process of choosing the character traits schools would inculcate through the program). Despite the rhetoric about creating a school culture of good citizenship, the Ontario Character Education Program is a top-down prescription: typically, in addition to a vague goal of promoting citizenship and a sense of community in schools, ten character traits are provided to each region (one for each month of the school year); each trait is then posted at the school and teachers (who are not provided training or curriculum for this program, and most of whom do not have any credentials in moral education or philosophy) are expected to independently weave their own interpretations of such concepts as “honesty,” “integrity,” or “loyalty” into the classroom as they see fit. In some schools, teachers choose a few students who exhibit a given trait better than their peers (or rather, who have “performed” the trait most convincingly) for a month’s-end award.
In my published doctoral work on the topic, I examined the Ontario initiative, its rhetoric, rosy promises, and seeming contradictions. My research and continued interest in the initiative have left me with four main concerns and one proposed solution. My first concern is that the Ontario government used a (failed) American, rather than a tried and true (or, at least, home-grown) Canadian model, for conceptualizing its project. My second concern is that the Ontario government chose a traits-based approach, ignoring an abundance of research that invalidates this particular conceptual framework. My third concern is that our policymakers did not sufficiently explore the ongoing intellectual dialogue on the subject of character education and “good character,” failing to consider multidisciplinary research, cutting-edge theories of mind, or neuroscience insights into moral development. My fourth concern is the lack of rigour and direction in the implementation of this initiative: there is no extensive character education curriculum or province-wide agenda (or assessment of success) and yet teachers (bright and well-meaning though they may be) are expected to address morality and "good character" in any which way in their classrooms. Of note is the fact that Ontario teachers and students who have been interviewed about the implementation of the initiative have unanimously agreed that character education is an afterthought and/or ignored by most at their schools and the policy has done little to change the school culture.
The solution? I have a positive vision for constructing a viable character education program in Ontario: mandatory philosophical inquiry with the aim to enhance critical thinking skills and impart empathy. And I'm not alone in my conviction: The Toronto Star - only a few days ago - echoed this view in the article, "Trump, Trudeau, and Teaching Critical Thinking for 2017" https://www.thestar.com/opin
ion/commentary/2017/01/08/trum p-trudeau-and-teaching-critica l-thinking-for-2017.html Surely Isocrates, were he alive today, would agree that having children tap into the timeless human dialogue about being "educated" (and, in so doing, discuss moral education) is the right way to go. Rather than prescribing traits for students to perform, have students (in age-appropriate fashion) examine philosophical ideas, such as the dangers of moral certainty, the science and nature of the self, as well as the neurology of the “moral mind.” There is such an abundance of scholarly research that points to the beneficial impacts of philosophical study on young people's academic and empathetic development that it is our responsibility to include philosophical inquiry as a subject in our children's schooling. Teachers (those who are expertly trained and accredited) need to facilitate students' philosophical exploration; indeed, topics on ethics (including, perhaps, whether or not a universal approach to morality can be put forward as a valid conceptual framework for character education) would be a great start.
As an educator myself, I make a point of including philosophical inquiry into every lesson I teach and can't imagine extricating this element from my pedagogy (indeed, doing so would detract from the "educating" of my students). Certainly if Google hires philosophers to direct their "moral operating system" (yes, even a tech company cares about the morality of its products! see: http://venturebeat.com/20
11/05/14/damon-horowitz-moral- operating-system/) our education system certainly could use a serious philosophical approach to its own attempts at moral education.
Clearly, the discussion on the subject of being "educated" and having good character is so rich, enduring, and progressive. At the very least, we should aim to let our young people learn how to explore classical philosophical ideas and have philosophical discussions and debates--even if our policymakers can't or won't. I'd like to think that an educated youth is encouraged to carefully and thoughtfully consider a history of ideas and apply their own thoughts to their exploration; in fact, in so doing, they would be heeding sage advice philosopher Immanuel Kant once gave, "Sapare aude!" (Latin for: Dare to think for yourself!)
Dr. Karine Rashkovsky-Tomas (B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed., Ph.D.)
Founder & Director
Brain Power Enrichment Programs Ltd.
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Posted: November 18, 2016
Learning from Harley Pasternak
I had a unique learning experience one day in August, when I received an invitation along with my co-workers, to meet and listen to Harley Pasternak speak. Originally from Toronto, Harley has truly built an empire, trainer to the stars, author of several nutrition books and even a blender with his name on it. He was in Toronto for a fitness conference and made time in his schedule to speak with our group. He began with his very interesting and impressive background and then went on to talk about the Personal Training Tool Box. As trainers we know it is vital to train based on your client’s goals, their fitness level, and many other variables that play a role in what their exercise program will look like. We must keep our exercise designs and progressions new and exciting. Harley’s main point was to keep our exercise sessions “Fresh”. It is very important for our bodies and minds to be challenged, so that we will adhere to an exercise program and reach our goals.
Harley also talked about the importance of quality over quantity. You do not have to be in the gym for two hours at a time. When you understand the muscles that you are working and learn some great exercises, using your own body weight, dumbbells, machines, always mixing it up, you can get a great workout in 25-30 minutes. He also talked about the importance for women in particular, and men for that matter, to focus on strengthening their posterior chain. Our posture - as a society - working for hours on end in front of computers, gradually deteriorates as we age. It is vital to keep our backs strong! He also is an avid believer in walking as many steps as you can each day, take a walk for that coffee, park farther away in the parking lot, just keep moving. And of utmost importance, to eat healthy!
When our time with Harley was over, all I could think was, I wish we had more time with him. Though I have been a trainer for a third of the time that he has, with much less experience, I felt empowered about my own training and lifestyle philosophy, as it is similar to this trainer whom I have admired for years!
Written by: Marcie Albert (Personal Trainer at the SRC)Read more »
Posted: October 26, 2016
The Difficulties Experienced by Generation-1.5 Students: Learning in English, but Speaking Another Language at Home
Have you heard of Generation-1.5 students? They are children who were born in Canada, but do not speak English at home. Despite having a different first language, these students are not considered ESL (English as a Second Language or English Language Learners) by their schools.
Education experts call these Canadian-born children “Generation 1.5” because they’re not quite 1st-generation immigrants and not quite 2nd-generation – they’re in between, and they’re underserviced by the schools they attend. Generation-1.5 students sound like native English speakers, so teachers often conclude that their academic difficulties have no reasonable explanation. Of course, there are reasonable explanations, and recent research has identified three.
Over the last few years, I’ve been part of a research study that has tried to identify the reasons for the academic difficulties of Generation-1.5 students, especially in relation to their performance in literacy-related tasks. The findings are fascinating, and my colleague Dr. Sandra Schecter (the primary researcher) was recently invited to present them to The Royal Swedish Academy (awarders of the Nobel Prize).
First, most Generation-1.5 students never learn to read and write in the language spoken in their home, and therefore do not receive the full benefits of being bilingual. Simply speaking, rather than being fully literate in their home language, Generation 1.5 students are often left deficient in both languages. For these students, their exposure to different languages at school and home does not provide the cognitive advantages of bilingualism. Meanwhile, new immigrant students who begin their Canadian schooling as “ESL” and who “maintain” literacy in their first language benefit both from a focus on the transfer of cognitive skills across languages and from funded support through the school system.
Second, parents of Generation-1.5 students are concerned with their children’s academic success, but feel incapable of facilitating it. While they may address some of their concerns with their children’s teachers, they themselves are unable to provide adequate in-home support for the development of their children’s English literacy.
Third, educators tend to value linguistic and cultural diversity through positive affect, rather than fostering students’ learning through intellectually challenging, academically rigorous, and culturally responsive curriculum. Research shows that most Generation-1.5 students who are academically successful are enrolled in supplementary after-school enrichment programs that fill the gaps in public school education. Tellingly, the one commonality among all of the parents interviewed in the research, regardless of their children’s academic attainment, was an unwillingness to trust their children’s potential for future career opportunities and social mobility to the public school system.
So, what’s the strategy for moving forward? For the short run, parents of Generation-1.5 students may want to seek out high-quality after-school enrichment opportunities for their children – programs that promote critical thinking and academic advancement. For the long run, I hope that my colleagues and I can influence Ontario policy makers to introduce more enrichment-oriented learning activities in public schools, thus better supporting all students, including Generation 1.5. This will require the willingness, on the part of professional educators, to develop targeted teaching strategies and to question basic assumptions about Canadian-born students. Of course, it would be even more productive if we could address the Generation-1.5 conundrum at the level of teacher education, so that difficulties faced by this vulnerable demographic are not so readily misattributed to inferior levels of language development (as opposed to different life experiences).
It’s time Generation-1.5 students receive the attention they deserve. We need awareness at all levels of formal schooling, a commitment to Canadian-born linguistic-minority students, and responsive (as well as responsible) educational practices.
Brought to you by our in-house education expert, Dr. Karine Rashkovsky, Founder & Director of Brain Power Enrichment Programs www.brainpower.ca
You can write to Dr. Rashkovsky at: [email protected]
Dr. Karine Rashkovsky, Ph.D. Education Policy – Founder & Director of Brain Power www.brainpower.ca
Karine has a passion for inspirational educational experiences and has been changing the lives of many students and teachers for nearly 20 years. Her social-entrepreneurial mission has always been to create innovative solutions to the problems of both status-quo-proliferating education and accessibility to top-caliber programs for high-achieving students. Karine’s realization of Brain Power - a community-oriented after-school enrichment program venture (focused on English Language Arts, Math/Problem Solving, Robotics & Coding, and Public Speaking for children in grades 1 - 12) demonstrates a successful triumph. Combined with her ongoing research and presence in academia, Brain Power allows Karine to impact the field of education in transformative ways. Brain Power is located on the 3rd floor of the Lebovic Campus (Schwartz/Reisman Community Centre).
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Posted: September 09, 2016
We are very excited to welcome Dana Yehudaiff to teach our vocal development and music education for children ages 4 to 6. Dana is a vocalist, musician and music educator who has been performing and teaching in the GTA for over a decade.
Dana completed her undergraduate degree in music at York University, where she focused on jazz vocal performance. She then continued her studies at the Rimon School of Music, in Ramat HaSharon, Israel, and is currently a Masters Candidate in Musicology at York University. In 2010, Dana obtained her BEd from the University of Western Ontario, where she teaches both instrumental (band) and vocal music for the Peel District School Board. Dana has had the opportunity to perform jazz standards, as well as original music at several venues in Toronto including Chalkers Pub and The Central. She also enjoys giving back to the community by performing in benefit concerts, raising funds for important causes. Dana has musically directed a number of shows including “Anything Goes”, “Mamma Mia” and “Alice in Wonderland”. She has also produced her own original musical revues in order to showcase individual student talent. Her passion and love of music, along with her education and experience, allow her to inspire her students to find their own voice and gain the skills and confidence they need to excel and shine (at any stage of the game).
Dana believes music education is important for young children as it develops the creative capacities required for lifelong success. Learning music teaches discipline, strengthens perseverance, sharpens attentiveness and builds self-esteem. By making music with others, children will also grow socially, as they learn to work as a part of a team to reach a common goal. Above all, music is fun, providing kids with a creative outlet for personal expression.
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