Beatrice J. V. Balfour (School Director): Holding dual-citizenship, Dr. Beatrice Balfour grew up in Italy and came to the U.S. to attend U.C. Berkeley. Her passion for progressive pedagogies, particularly the so-called ‘Reggio Emilia approach,’ led her to obtain a Ph.D in Early Childhood Education from the University of Cambridge. She has taught early childhood education at the University level and was a project manager for the creation of an experimental school in Ecuador. For Beatrice, Gan Shalom’s progressive educational methodologies are filled with the beauty and richness of the Jewish curriculum and culture. Dr. Balfour is honored to be part of Gan Shalom’s special, welcoming, and inclusive community!
Beatrice can be reached at (510) 848-3298 or firstname.lastname@example.org
THE DOWNSTAIRS CLASSROM (3-5 year-old)
Robin Mendelson (Lead Teacher): When Robin opened her eyes, she knew she was supposed to teach young children. It is her passion and blessing. Her other passions include her cats, the Beatles, hula hoops, dancing, pomegranates and studying Torah. Robin won the prestigious Diller Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education in 2011.
Natalie Levanda (Lead Teacher): I have worked in other Jewish preschools in the Bay Area for over 10 years, most recently at Temple Sinai. I also worked with children on the autism spectrum as a program manager for 13 years. My passion for working with young children and exploring their curiosity led me to earn an MS degree in early childhood education. When I am not working or teaching Hebrew, I like to take walks with my dog, dance, watch foreign films, practice puppetry, and spend time with loved ones.
THE KESHET CLASSROOM (2 year-old)
Iris Greenberg-Smith (Lead Teacher): Iris is the mother of four daughters who all attended Gan Shalom and who have fond memories of rainbows and cinnamon challah. Iris served on the Gan Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), co-chaired a director search committee, and helped write an Alameda County grant for the new Gan building. She has a bachelors degree in social science, and a masters in journalism. Originally from Israel, Iris is now very excited to be back at Gan as a Keshet teacher, a job which lets her play with beautiful little people and share all those Hebrew songs she remembers from her childhood. In her spare time, Iris loves traveling, beading, and making art.
Priscila Diaz Da Silva Vaz (Assistant Teacher): I have been surrounded by children my entire life, among my family and friends. I became very intrigued and sensitive about how parenting works in both my home country Brazil, and here in the USA. To pursue my interest in children’s education, I volunteered on Sundays at a church, then enrolled in a Children Training course focused on kids’ emotions, behavior, thinking, and how to help them while facing difficulties. This all came to fruition when the chance to join Gan Shalom came about, where I now find myself in the best place to practice what I love and learn more about the education of our little ones. With experience as a pharmacist holding a master’s degree in medicinal plants, I also hope to explore the world of flora with projects designed for kids.
Risa Dye: As a former princess, Risa has great experience enchanting youth. She weaves her training as a physical performer and a textile artist into her educating. Risa’s extraordinary background includes a year in Paris studying movement and circus arts, and her creativity and warmth are contagious. Risa leads the Jelly- Jam program at Gan Shalom – a creative and exciting dance and movement program!
Melita Doostan: Melita currently works in a number of schools, and also runs a music school from her home for parents and children. Using puppets and an array of acoustic instruments, she inspires little ones to discover their creative spark through song, story, movement, and dance. Malita comes to Gan Shalom once a week to teach in a playful and creative way music and Jewish songs to the children in both Gan Shalom’s classrooms.
Laurie Teeter: Laurie has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood field working with children, families and educators. She believes relationships and play are the foundation to the healthy development of every child – especially those who have developmental and behavioral differences. Her previous experience as a classroom teacher and school director allows Laurie to be the bridge between teachers, administrators, parents and specialists to help children succeed at home and school. Laurie also has training in FloorTime and ABA.
Joelle Yzquierdo, Preschool Administrator
Joelle makes sure everything runs smoothly. Joelle can be reached at (510) 843-5246 or email@example.com