Who we are

Who We Are

We are a highly-respected Reggio-inspired Jewish early childhood program, recognized on both a local and national level. We are a model program hosting numerous visitors from a variety of educational settings. We teach workshops, lead days of learning and present at conferences sponsored by a variety of educational institutions and agencies. Many of our faculty members are leaders themselves in the professional Jewish Early Childhood community. We were honored to be the first Jewish preschool to host several distinguished founders and leaders of the schools of Reggio Emilia and were proud to have 75 early childhood leaders from throughout the country join us for that milestone event.

A core part of our school identity are the relationships between the child, the teacher, and the learning processes. In practice it means that we, the teachers, are all dedicated students; we are readers and researchers. We gather together at least once a month for a night of learning; study together at “lunch and learns;” are active participants in the D.C. Reggio-Emilia Study Group and attend a wide variety of workshops sponsored by the JLL. We are committed members of the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance and attend their national seminars. We have studied in Reggio Emilia at seminars organized by Reggio Children International and have joined Jewish study groups and academic conferences there. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from our teacher, mentor and advisor, Dr. Naama Zoran, a developmental psychologist and educational systems specialist. Dr. Zoran is Israel’s International representative in the Reggio Children International Network, and inspires us to always work towards the highest level of excellence.

We are a collegial, collaborative and gifted faculty, committed to the values of Temple Emanuel ECC. We are 20 co-teachers with Bachelors or Masters Degrees; a Pedagogista (pedagogical coordinator) an Atelierista (studio/materials specialist): a hands-on Assistant Director and a Director with over 25 years of leadership experience. We are all well-educated in a wide variety of disciplines and have diverse backgrounds and interests. We have several teachers who have strong music backgrounds and several who have majored in psychology. We are actors, visual artists and athletes. We have a teacher who worked as an art-therapist and others with science backgrounds. We are also fortunate to have the entire Temple Emanuel staff as active participants in the daily life of our school. What binds us all together is our common belief that we will never compromise on quality for our children!

Leadership Team

Gary Mayes, Director of Early Childhood, Gary received his BMED in Music Education and BA in Theater from the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music. In addition, he earned an MFA with an emphasis in education. He has participated in national seminars and conferences focusing on the philosophy of Reggio Emilia. Gary has participated in four Jewish Early Childhood Seminars in Reggio Emilia, Italy and Pistoia, Italy. In turn, he has created innovative professional learning materials and led teacher-training and mentoring programs. Gary is the leader in our team approach to collaborative planning and learning. In 2013, Gary was selected to participate in the second cohort of the Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute. The Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute is a joint program of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in consultation with the Bank Street College of Education. This was an 18 month fellowship that studied in New York and in Israel. When not thinking about Reggio-Inspired practices, Gary spends his time with his husband Vas, navigating their new roles as fathers to their daughter Zara!
Laura Enkiri, Assistant Director of Early Childhood, Laura grew up in Kensington. She has come full circle as her first education experience was right here at Temple Emanuel in the 1980s when she attended the preschool. After graduating from Fairfield University with a degree in International Relations she moved back to the area to begin work at National Geographic, where her love of photography grew. Over the years Laura has been fortunate to experience living throughout the United States. Her favorite spot so far has been San Diego; with Savannah a close second when it comes to beautiful places to live. In Savannah Laura worked at the Jewish Education Alliance as the Assistant Children’s Director.  In 2015 Laura began working at TEECC as a Teacher and began the role of Assistant Director over the summer of 2017.  She will be attending a Study Tour to Reggio Emilia in October 2017. When Laura is not at Temple Emanuel you may see her around Kensington walking her dog, Newton.
Melissa Williamson, Pedagogista, Melissa has been a faculty member of Temple Emanuel ECC since 2011.  She has been a classroom teacher of 2, 3 and 4 year old children and from 2013 to 2018 she held the position of Atelierista until transitioning to the role of Pedagogista in August 2018.  Melissa is an active participant in the Federation of Greater Washington’s Jewish Life and Learning Pedagogista and Atelierista communities of practice, which are guided by the values and practices of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education.  Melissa is a member of the DC Reggio Emilia Alliance’s Steering Committee and has participated in three study programs in Reggio Emilia, Italy.  Melissa received her BA in English and Studio Art from Hamilton College.  She has lived in Kensington for over 20 years and she is the proud parent of Nick, a junior at the University of Georgia, and Kara, a freshman at the University of Florida.
Erin Koester Tusell, Atelierista, – coming soon
Jennifer Gauthier, Mentor Teacher, has been a long-time gifted early childhood educator and part of our community for the past six years. She has attended a number of conferences focused on the Reggio Emilia approach and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. Jennifer also has a strong science background and is interested in marine biology.