Meet Temple Solel’s New Preschool Directorby Jacqueline Bull January 2, 2019
Leslie Scheck joined Temple Solel brimming with experience as a teacher’s assistant, Jewish camp counselor, teacher and over 10 years as an early childhood education director. She describes one of the key features of her philosophy as hands-on.
“I spend as much time in the classroom with the children and teachers as I possibly can. I am the type of person that always throughout my whole career has been willing to schlep a table, change a diaper, run to the store, help a teacher with behavior challenges, jump in, sub in a classroom, get down on the floor with the kids — really anything that is needed for the teachers to be successful and help the kids have the most quality experience possible,” Scheck said.
She brings her perspective as being both a teacher and administrator and working in many different school settings.
“I feel like a lot of my colleagues have spent their entire career in Jewish education, so I can kind of see from the opposite side of the coin: the level of expectations in the public school world. I taught inner city and I taught in a very affluent area, so I saw both sides of that. And the challenges that we faced were so drastically different. I also see sort of from the administrative side. Things were very formulated, but also there was a lot of bureaucracy that I had to deal with and standardized tests. So I can see how fortunate we are to be play-based and developmentally appropriate and do what we need to do in order to meet the needs of our kids and families without that pressure,” she said.
She expressed wanting a strong, moral Jewish foundation for their students – no matter what kindergarten they end up in.
“We want them to be prepared for the world. We want them to be good kind people and have that social emotional foundation and really love learning and know how to learn. And there have been so many studies recently that show the value of early childhood education is really in the social emotional development. That stuff you can’t go back and re-teach those skills,” she said.
“I want them to love this place. I want them to have a strong Jewish foundation and I think that we need to look at them as more than students. And look at our families as more than just numbers – that this is really a foundation for them. That comes from my own experience, I’m still in contact with many friends that I met in Jewish preschool in Arizona and I think that piece is so valuable. I truly believe in the long run, the future of Judaism in our country is going to be based on community. It’s about tradition, culture, connection and finding ways to be together in good times and bad. And I know that for my friends, we stuck it out and kept coming to religious school and confirmation class, and we’re involved in the Jewish world because we had connections to one another, so I think that is really key in everything I do.”
Leslie found her way into this kind of work because of her mother. Her mom was the founding director of the preschool in their synagogue in Tempe, Arizona, and Leslie worked to start a summer camp through the synagogue. Her mom then passed away from cancer when she was only 50.
“She asked me to apply for her job. And so they did a national search and actually narrowed it down to two candidates and I was 26 years old and was offered this position. I had no administrative experience and jumped right in. It was a little school; it was a beautiful community who just embraced me. And I found my passion and I found my family that I didn’t even know that I was missing. These children and parents really embraced me,” she said.
Leslie stayed at that school for six years while getting her masters and then started a trajectory of furthering her career and working in different positions at different schools.
“She knew I would be really good at this,” Leslie said, “even when I had no idea.”