I Already Knew I Had the Best Job in the World – Teaching Young Children

Reflecting on receiving the Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education

I am extremely honored to have won this award. American culture does not loudly acknowledge the hard work done by so many teachers – so thank you to the Helen Diller Family Foundation and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund for this outstanding honor.

When I first began teaching, I was driven to learn as many educational techniques as I possibly could. I already knew I had the best job in the world – teaching young children. But through the Gratz program and information from conferences offered by the Federation's Early Childhood Initiative, I realized that I have the remarkable task of teaching young American Jews at the very beginning of their education.

The most successful way to do this was through my classroom. Three years ago, my outstanding and supportive directors, Jill Rosenthal and Marta Molina, took a chance on a pilot program that Karen Llamas and I pitched. We decided to create a classroom that focused on b’tzelem elohim, that incorporated actual ritual objects in the classroom, and that looks at curriculum through a Jewish lens. We know that the children may not precisely remember the time they made hamentachen in our class, but they will remember that joyous feeling they had as they made the dough, the mouth-watering scent as the hamentachen leaves the oven, and the feeling of kehillah as they enjoy their treat with their friends. This exuberant feeling is the foundation of their Jewish education, and will propel them further into Jewish life.

The current educators at Gan Avraham are so hard-working, supportive, and eager to learn. This award is an incredible achievement not only for me, but for the entire teaching community at Gan Avraham. Because of the generosity, validity, and honor of this award, Gan Avraham’s work to continue to create a strong new generation of American Jews is possible. Because of this award, I am able to continue to grow the wonderful minds of young children, inspire innovative teachers to create deep and meaningful Jewish curriculum, and help young families foster strong relationships to the Jewish religion, culture, and each other.

Emma Schnur is the recipient of the 2018 Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Early Childhood Education Education category.

Categories: Awards, Endowment


June 11, 2018


Emma Schnur