Meet the Washington DCJCC Preschool Staff
Bini Silver – Director, Early Childhood, Youth & Family Programs
I am very excited to be joining the DCJCC as the Director of Early Childhood, Youth and Family Programs. Prior to coming to the DCJCC I was the Head of School of The New Jewish School-Hebrew Day Institute, a private school in Rockville, MD. Before moving to the D.C. area I served as Head of School of the Lerner Day School in Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for several years, which had three-year olds through Fifth Grade students. I was also the Headmaster & Director of Education at Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation, Florida, where I oversaw the 900 children involved in the Temple’s Day School, Religious School and Early Childhood programs for nine years. I began my Day School career as the Principal of The Davis Academy, Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Day School. I also worked in Temple education as the Director of Education at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, MA for 12 years.
Prior to becoming involved in formal Jewish education, I served for many years as the Director of Camp Young Judaea-Midwest and as the Executive Director of the Westchester and Midwest Regions of Hadassah’s Zionist Youth Movement – Young Judaea.
I have had the opportunity to serve on several national boards connected to education. I am the past-President of the National Association of Temple Educators (NATE), and have served as the national Vice President of the Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools (PARDeS). I was awarded the Keter Torah Award from the Boston Bureau of Jewish Education for my service to the Jewish community. I have also had several articles about Jewish education published in the CAJE Journal, Hadassah publications, and other periodicals.
I earned my B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University in Judaic Studies and Middle-East Studies. I also studied at M.I.T. in a PhD. Program and at the Jerusalem Institute in Israel. I earned my Principal’s Certificate in Advanced Jewish School Administration from Hebrew College in Boston.
I grew up in the Boston area and have two sons - Joshua and Eric. I enjoy outdoor activities, including hiking and tennis, as well as movies, reading, and Jewish storytelling.
Alex Band – Associate Preschool Director and Pedagogista
I am very excited to begin my sixth year at the DCJCC! After graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in Jewish Studies and an emphasis in Education, I moved into the District to work as a teacher at the DCJCC Preschool. I taught in the four-year olds’ class for several years before becoming the Judaics Specialist and eventually the Pedagogista. In 2011, I took on the role of Assistant Director of the Preschool where I was able to use my experience with the Reggio Emilia philosophy and my background in Jewish education to enhance the learning and teaching in our classrooms. In my role as the Associate Director of the Preschool, I focus on overseeing the curriculum in the school and work closely with the teachers to dialogue, collaborate, and create meaningful learning experiences for our students.
Although I currently live in DC, the Philadelphia area will always be my home! When I’m not at the DCJCC, you can find me cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies with my husband, Zvi, and our dog, Astro!
Kirstin Springer – Preschool Administrator
After spending the first part of my life in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I discovered a love for the city of Washington, DC while serving as the education intern at the Genocide Intervention Network. I knew that I wanted to move back here eventually. Prior to moving to DC, I was the Assistant Director of the Simpson Academy and Child Care, a non-profit urban preschool in Fort Wayne. I developed an understanding of and respect for the Reggio Emilia philosophy at SACC. This philosophy reflects the love I have for children and the investment I want to make in their early education. I have a bachelor’s degree from Indiana-Purdue University Fort Wayne in Political Science.
Lucy Bayer – Bogrim Teacher & Team Leader
I bring professional, collegiate and volunteer experience to our PreK classroom. I earned a BA in Psychology from Haverford College and have taken graduate level coursework in Early Childhood General and Special Education at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. For two years, I worked as an assistant teacher in an inclusion-based program, gaining invaluable experience in classroom management, team work, teaching techniques and special education. I was also a camp counselor for ten summers. I am committed to the Reggio Emilia approach to working with children in a child-centered curriculum that fosters creativity and exploration through activities, projects and play.
Julien Henderson – Bogrim Teacher
I graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelors’ degree in Arts & Sciences, majoring in Psychology. My vision is to spark each child’s mind to change the world through experiences that enrich their lives and help them reach their maximum potential. I have worked with at-risk children in an afterschool program where I mentored children one-on-one and also planned group activities. I was a substitute teacher and assistant teacher at the DCJCC before joining the staff full-time in our PreK class.
Tawanda Davis – Bogrim Teacher
I was born and raised in Washington DC. I graduated in 2007 from Friendship Collegiate Academy and am currently working towards a degree in Accounting and Education. For seven years, I worked as a community activist and program coordinator for a non-profit in DC. My love and passion for working with children began when I observed that there are not many leaders fighting for the needs of young child in my community. I felt empowered to step up and make sure that each child I come in contact with has the opportunity to be themselves without judgment. I want each child to know that there is someone who cares about their well-being.
Abby Johnson – Peelim Teacher
I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and earned my degree in Elementary Education from the University of Michigan in May 2010. I student-taught in kindergarten and early elementary classrooms and worked as an assistant preschool teacher while in college. After graduating, I spent a year in Tanzania teaching English at a government high school for girls. Among many other things, this incredible experience cemented my love of early childhood education. Continuing my exploration of new places, I recently relocated to Washington, DC, and am excited to have discovered a preschool with such a wonderful approach to children at the Washington DCJCC. I look forward to getting to know all the DCJCC families.
Alisa Berkovich – Peelim Teacher
Before I was old enough to have a job, I remember spending my summers assisting my mom in her preschool classroom. Since then I have worked as a camp counselor, nanny, substitute, and teacher for preschool-aged children. Through these opportunities, I discovered my passion for early childhood education. I graduated from the University of Texas, where I worked as a teacher's assistant at the Child Development Center and earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Art History. Before relocating to DC, I taught at the Beth Yeshurun Day School in Houston. I am so happy to be returning for my fourth school year here at the JCC. The wonderful families, close community, inspiring Reggio Emilia philosophy, and talented staff has made this an amazing experience for me, and I look forward to another great year!
Laura Kayton – Dagim Teacher
I was born and raised in Potomac, Maryland and have remained a Marylander ever since. I have a BA in Education and Sociology from Clark University as well as an M.Ed in Elementary Education from George Washington University. I have prior experience teaching preschool, elementary grades in an independent school setting, and 7 years of Hebrew school. I have a passion for Jewish education and I look forward to embarking on a new journey at the Washington DCJCC.
Stephanie Goldberg – Dagim Teacher
I work in our older three year old class, continuing my interest in working with children of all ages. I have been a Hebrew School teacher and a private tutor, as well as a volunteer with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). My degree is in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Israeli studies from American University, where I was also very active in Jewish life. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of teachers I had who made learning fun. I teach Sunday Hebrew school and also looks forward to pursuing a Masters in Elementary Education and has already passed Praxis exams on the subject.
I was born and raised in the great state of Minnesota and made the move to DC in the summer of 2013. I grew up with two younger sisters and have always enjoyed working with children! Prior to moving to DC, I spent four years as a preschool teacher in Minnesota. When I am not at the DCJCC, you can find me around the DC area with my camera! I am an aspiring photographer. I love nature, long walks on the beach, and making people smile!
Xani Pollakoff – Yanshoofim Teacher & Team Leader
Originally from the North Shore of Chicago, DC became my home three years ago after I graduated from the University of Hartford with a degree in Elementary/Special Education and Judaic studies. My passion of Jewish education grew during my 15 years at Jewish overnight camps, Olin-Sang-Ruby-Union Institute in Oconomowc, WI and URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. It continued at Congregation Kol Haverim during my 4 years as a youth director and special education coordinator. Working at the DCJCC combines my love for teaching Jewish values and educating our future. While not at the J, you can find me teaching 8th and 9th grade at Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, supporting Jewish teens repairing the world through a philanthropy program, eating at Sticky Fingers bakery or hanging at Meridian Hill Park. I am so excited for my third year of learning, teaching, exploring and playing here at the DCJCC!
I was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey and lived there until I was 14. After leaving Florida, I attended high school and college in Tampa, Florida. At the University of South Florida I earned my Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. After graduation, I moved to Maryland. This past summer I worked at Headfirst Camps as a teacher for the 3-4 year old group. I am dedicated to the education of children of a diverse background and try to stay current with advancements in the field. I am looking forward to earning my Masters in Reading Education from the historic Howard University.
I grew up in Bethesda, MD and recently graduated from Syracuse University (Go Orange!) with a BA in Advertising and Psychology. During college, I worked at the DCJCC as a counselor with the summer camp. I loved the community here so much that after I graduated I came back to become a part-time teacher with the preschool. This year marks my first year as a full-time teacher and I couldn't be more excited! I love seeing the light bulb go off in a child's mind when they understand something and being able to help them get to that point. I am looking forward to getting to know my class and their parents this year as we go through this wonderful journey together.
Originally from Ashland, Oregon, I graduated in 2009 from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington with a concentration in Race, Ethnicity, and Education. Once I realized that teaching is my avocation, I took numerous additional courses and child development and early childhood education. One of my favorite college experiences was helping a research team study the intermarriage between Asian Americans and American Jews, which was fascinating. I spent my first year out of college as an au pair in Milan, Italy and then decided to spend the second year as a member of AVODAH: the Jewish Service Corps here in Washington, DC. During my service year, I fell in love with the city and with the vibrant Jewish community here. I am excited to be working at the Washington DCJCC and looks forward to getting to know each family.
I grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson New York, a small town about twenty minutes north of Manhattan. I completed both an undergraduate and a graduate degree at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts. My undergraduate degree is in Women and Gender Studies and was completed in May 2010, and my Masters degree is in Public Administration and was completed in May 2011. Currently I am pursuing a second Masters in Early Childhood Education at the University of DC. Throughout my life I have had many opportunities to work with children from being a camp counselor to ski instructing and substitute teaching. These opportunities gave me a passion for working with children that influences my teaching every day. I look forward to meeting you and am very excited to be starting my third year teaching at the DCJCC.
Hi! My name is Julia Gootzeit, and I'm very excited about teaching at the JCC Preschool. I love working with young children – they're inspiring, hilarious, and a joy to be around. I recently graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a MFA in Studio Art. During my time, I taught two semesters of sculpture to college freshman as a UNC Teaching Fellow. I've also taught children of all ages at summer camps like the South City Open Studio & Gallery in St. Louis. I believe in the power of exploration and expression as tools of learning, and I'm thrilled to be teaching with the Reggio Emilia approach.
I am excited to be joining the DCJCC Preschool staff. I was born in New York, on Long Island, and grew up in Potomac. I have a B.S. degree in education from the University of Maryland and have been teaching children, ages 2-6, for over 18 years. I have a daughter Lindsay, 25, who lives and works in New York City, and a son Jason, 19, who is currently attending Indiana University (go Hoosiers). Both my children and I graduated from the same high school – Wootton High in Rockville.
I love working with young children and I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. When not teaching I enjoy helping people with their real estate needs (both buying and selling), and getting together with friends.
I recently graduated from George Washington University with a BA in Psychology. I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, and have always had a great appreciation for the District and all it has to offer. Over the past several years, I have interned with the school psychologist at the River School, volunteered as a reading buddy at the School for Arts in Learning, and worked summers at Fairfax City's Summer Recreation Programs. I enjoy working with children immensely and find it truly rewarding. I am very much looking forward to working at the J this year!
A recent graduate of The George Washington University, I received my Bachelor's degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Judaic Studies. I also completed internships which included designing programming at GW's Hillel and assisting a Speech-Language Pathologist in preschool and home settings. During summers at home in Philadelphia, I worked as a camp counselor. I am very excited about working at the DCJCC preschool and helping to provide a fun, safe and creative environment for children.
I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, where I spent every summer from when I was 15 working with children at summer camps. I attended the University of Arizona where I graduated with a BA in Elementary Education. I student taught in a 1st grade classroom and also assisted in a Kindergarten and combined 4th/5th grade classroom. Since graduating I worked in a Reggio Emilia preschool in Dallas for a year where I was introduced to the teaching style. I then moved to San Diego, CA where i worked in a play-based preschool for 2 and a half years in classrooms on 5 year olds and 2 year olds. I have always known I wanted to work with children and believe teaching is one of the most important jobs. We are shaping the lives of our future leaders and I look forward to doing this for the years to come here at the DCJCC.
I am a recent graduate of the University of Maryland where I studied Elementary Education and Human Development. I was also very involved with the Child Development Lab, and could see myself going back to school to do more research in that field. I have always had a love for children and have taught them in many capacities including dance, swimming, gymnastics, and Hebrew School. I am a Red Sox girl at heart, having grown up in the Boston area before attending school at UMD and deciding to stick around DC. Back home I was always very involved with my synagogue youth group and also worked at the preschool there. I love to sing, dance, swim, play volleyball, and one of my childhood past times is creating sidewalk masterpieces with chalk. I can't wait to get to know all the family and friends of the JCC preschool and am excited for a great year!
After growing up in Stafford,VA I moved north to pursue my education in teaching. While earning my degree in early childhood from Northern Virginia Community College I worked as an instructional assistant in Virginia. After graduating I worked in inner city DC, then as a lead teacher and art teacher for Rosemount Center, a bilingual early learning inclusion center. There I discovered my love for teaching children by learning with them, and my passion for children with special needs. For the past year and a half I have dedicated myself to working with children with intellectual disabilities at St. Coletta of Greater Washington. I take pride in my career of working with diverse groups of Students. I believe children are the adults of tomorrow and that they are the future! When I am not working I enjoy expressing my creativity with art, being outdoors, and discovering new hobbies. I am excited to be a part of the DCJCC!
I graduated from Alfred University with a BFA degree with a heavy concentration in both ceramics and photography. During the summers I am the head of the arts & crafts department at Camp Louise in Cascade, MD, and I also serve as a USY Advisor in the greater DC Jewish community. I love working with children of all ages and enjoy watching them grow.