Program Overview


The JCC East Bay’s award-winning preschool is an inclusive, play-based, nurturing environment. We believe that it is important to focus on the whole child, integrating a variety of activities into our daily schedule and connecting Jewish values with relationship-based inclusion practice and anti-bias education to teach the social-emotional and critical thinking skills that are the foundation of lifelong learning.

Intentional play-based learning allows children to make sense of the world around them through active involvement with their environment. To facilitate this kind of learning, we

  • Provide opportunities for children to explore and interact freely with different materials and ideas, both independently and collaboratively, encouraging children to develop their communication and social- emotional skills that are the building blocks for life.
  • Encourage children to practice taking risks and support them in building their resilience.
  • Work to develop compassion and empathy in all children so the feel included, accepted, and valued.
  • Honor and respect differences in the classroom by using a culturally responsive approach to teaching using materials, activities and language.

Keeping with our core Jewish values of hachnasat orchim (welcoming and inclusive) and kavod and chesed (respect and loving kindness), we intentionally incorporate inclusion and relationship-based practice into our program.

Learn more about our philosophy, values, and curriculum below.

Meet Our Staff

Nicole (Nicki) Acland-Whear
Director of Preschool

Hello JCC Community!

Nicki has one philosophy which has guided her leadership: a relentless commitment to putting children at the center of her work in education.

Nicki leads us with more than 20 years of experience working in and around early childhood settings. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Chico State and a Master’s degree in Human Development with an emphasis in Early Childhood Leadership from Pacific Oaks College. She is deeply passionate about social-emotional development and you will likely find her sitting in on circle time as often as possible.

She believes in establishing positive relationships rooted in mutual respect, trust and understanding. She shares a favorite quote from Dr. James Comer that guides her teaching and leadership, "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

Sabrina May
Assistant Director of Preschool

Sabrina joins the JCC with over 7 years of experience in the early childhood field. She graduated summa cum laude, earning a double BA in English Education and French language from San Francisco State University. She is also fully credentialed in early childhood education, with an expansive course list at a 4.0 average under her belt from both Theoria Technical College and the UCLA Extension.

Sabrina has also attended professional development training in play-based, Jewish, and Reggio Emilia curriculum within the classroom. She utilizes the Jewish values to guide her work with children, focusing on topics such as social justice, equity, and meaning within classroom spaces.

An English major at heart, you’ll often find Sabrina exploring these themes with her students using literature as a starting point. In her free time, she enjoys curling up with her dog, Atwood, on the couch and reading– and yes, her dog is named after the author.

Rivi Dollinger
Preschool Teacher

Rivi has been teaching at the JCC for over a year now. She began as a substitute teacher in January of 2021, and officially became part of the team in the same school year.

Rivi earned her BA in psychology from Pitzer college, working at a behavioral clinic serving children with autism during her studies. Her three years in the early childhood field have shown a dedication to sharing her knowledge of art, socio-emotional development, and Jewish learning throughout her practice.

Rivi’s favorite part of the JCC is having the ability to watch her students’ development and worldview unfold before her eyes, shifting each and every day.

Cara Dressler
Behavioral and Inclusion Specialist

Cara holds a Masters in Special Education and specializes in disability inclusion program development and practices. Cara has over 9 years of experience as an early childhood educator, working in ABA & play based therapy and currently as a contractor with a private organization to provide support and professional development for preschools across the Bay Area. Her experience as an early childhood educator and belief in the power of early intervention has inspired her to work with ECE professionals. Cara believes that all children have unique needs and benefit greatly from individualized support and she infuses this philosophy into her collaborative approach to working with educators and directors. Cara is passionate about advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and is affiliated with several organizations, including serving as a board member of a non-profit that creates and facilitates inclusive housing communities in the Bay Area.

Lilian (Lily) Reyes
Preschool Teacher

Lily joins us with over five year of teaching experience in preschool settings across state lines. She is a fully qualified teacher, earning her certification from Theoria Technical College in 2022.

Much of her coursework centers on infant and toddler classrooms, play based curriculum, and care routines. Lily also has the experience of leading toddler classrooms in the early childhood field.

Colleagues describe Lily as somebody “born for this work”, often turning to her for input and guidance within the toddler sphere. With a manifold of training in play-based and Reggio Emilia style curriculum, Lily is passionate about cultivating the curiosities of the world’s littlest learners. She’s excited to continue growing with her JCC community who she’s come to love and cherish.

Shardae Jordan
Preschool Teacher

Shardae began working in the early childhood field over ten years ago! Her experience navigating different settings, such as preschool and recreational events, showcases her ability to create curriculum and care for a wide range of children. She currently holds 36 early childhood units (12 is the standard), with a specialization in early intervention strategies, which provides a unique perspective within the classroom. Shardae holds firm to her strong educational background and experience, and is excited to bring her accumulated knowledge to the JCC community. When she’s not working, you can find Shardae at the movie theater with a few good snacks in her hands!

Paulette Herring
Preschool Teacher Aide

Paulette Herring (Rimon)is thrilled to be part of the teaching staff of the JCC east bay . Paulette comes to the JCC with over fourteen years of childcare experience having worked in aftercare and after school programs for Alameda Arts, Alameda Parks and recreation and Berkeley Parks and Recreation. She has also worked in a classroom setting for Berkeley’s School of the Madeleine and has been active for many years in the local theater arts scene.

Marili Ressel
Preschool Teacher Aide

Marili is new to the JCC as of July 2022! She earned her bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from The Ohio State University this summer and has been working in childcare for the last three years, mostly with infants and toddlers. She has an extensive background in Jewish education, both personally and professionally-- with her work as a Hebrew school teacher as well as lived experience. Marili is eager to incorporate Jewish values into her teaching and is passionate about helping her students develop meaningful connections to Judaism.

Respect & Loving Kindness (Kavod & Chesed): We practice every moment to be our best selves by respecting others and treating everyone with care and kindness. We learn with and from one another which helps us to understand others around us, and the impact of our words and actions.

Curiosity and Awe (Hit’orerut): We foster questions and endless explorations to help children discover and build connections with the world around them. We create environments for children to learn in new, fun ways and to develop critical thinking skills.

Responsibility (Tikkun Olam): We understand and discuss the importance of our job as caretakers of our home and earth. By teaching and fostering accountability, we learn how to take care of ourselves, each other, and the world we live in.

Justice (Tzedek): We empower children to advocate for themselves and to lead with compassion and empathy for others. We model positive ways to address conflicts and repair actions that have hurt others.

Community (Kehillah): We work to build a sense of belonging within our classrooms and community with parents as partners and children as capable learners. We cultivate emotional competency, consent, and social growth that guides the foundation of new and lasting friendships.

Welcoming and Inclusive (Hachnasat Orchim): We create an environment where everyone feels welcomed, respected, and valued. We teach from a culturally competent perspective by embracing and discussing differences as strengths, allowing everyone to be their authentic selves.

Our Emergent curriculum aligns with Jewish holiday themes. For example, we might use tashlich to foster discussions about how to repair a relationship or an interaction with a friend. On Purim it is customary to make mishloach manot—gift baskets of food for other people, and to give funds to those who need support. We can use this as an opportunity to work together to make gifts and also have discussions about how to support others in need. 

Every Friday, each classroom shares the joy of challah making and celebrating Shabbat with songs, blessings, and rituals. Some classes begin their week with Havdalah, delineating “time away from school” from “time at school” with song and blessings over spices, candle flames, and “wine.” These rituals allow children to come together as a community and to practice mindfulness.

The JCC East Bay Preschool believes that children are capable, competent learners who are full of potential; therefore, we work with them to co-construct knowledge. We provide a variety of activities and materials appropriate for the children's age and developmental level, and help them to be enthusiastic learners who become independent, self-confident, and inquisitive. Academics are built into the play experiences in a developmentally appropriate way, with the role of the teacher as the facilitator. Children learn from first-hand experiences, exploring and discovering in imaginative and playful ways. Below are examples of play-based activities that guide learning and that connect to Jewish values.


The 2023-2024 school year runs from:

  • August 15, 2023-July 26, 2024

The core Preschool program runs 5 days/week:

  • Earlycare (optional): 8:30-9am
  • Full day: 9am-3:30pm, Monday-Friday
  • Aftercare (optional): 3:30-5:30pm

We also offer 3- or 4-day options for full day program hours only (9am-3:30pm):

  • Tuition is for a full school year. You may pay all at once to receive a 5% discount. As all months do not have the same number of days/weeks, tuition is not monthly, however you have the option to pay via 12 equal installments, billed monthly. 

    Gefen 5 days (2's class) 9AM-1PM - $20,460 or $1,705/installment

    Gefen 5 days (2's class) 9AM-3:30PM - $25,920 or $2,160/installment

    Alon/Rimon 5 days (3-5's classes) 9AM-3:30PM- $25,020 or $2,085/installment

    Transitional Kindergarten 9AM-3:30PM- $18,000 or $1,500/installment (must be 4 by April 1, 2023)

    Any class 3 day option 9AM-3:30PM - $20,460 or $1,705/installment

    Any class 4 day option 9AM-3:30PM - $23,400 or $1,950/installment

    Early Care Option: 8:30AM-9:00AM - $1,320, or $110/installment

    After Care Option: 3:30PM-5:30PM - $5,400 or $450/installment

    After Care Drop-in: $45/day

    Early Care Drop-in: $10/day

The JCC East Bay recognizes that all families have different needs, and we want to support all families the best we can. In our process of selecting families to whom we provide financial aid, you will complete our Financial Aid “short form.” The "short form" can be found here.

To learn about eligibility, submission dates, requirements, and more, please contact us using the 'Contact Us' section below.

The deadline for Financial Aid applications for the 2023-2024 school year is April 15th.

Applications are now open for the 2023-2024 school year!* Please click here to apply.

*Rolling enrollment

What does the application process look like?
Parents are required to complete a JCC East Bay Preschool Application for each child accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of $50.00 to be considered for enrollment.

If the student is accepted, and parents give verbal agreement, issuance of an “Enrollment Agreement” and additional licensing forms will be sent to the family. “The Enrollment Agreement” must be signed and returned within seven days including the preschool deposit of $2,150. Submitting the signed “Enrollment Agreement” and deposit secure the applicant’s place at the JCC East Bay Preschool.

Priority for acceptance to the preschool is based upon the following criteria when the completed application is submitted:

  • Siblings of currently enrolled children in the JCC East Bay Preschool
  • Children of employees of the JCC East Bay
  • Families that are registered in the JCC East Bay Afterschool programs
  • JCC East Bay Preschool and Afterschool alumni families

How do you handle poor air quality?
The JCC East Bay has a comprehensive Air Quality decision-making matrix that we employ when the AQI reaches unhealthy levels. Generally speaking, for AQI levels between 51 and 150 (Moderate and Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups), we will take more breaks and do less intense activities outdoors, and also decide to move activities indoors. We will utilize HEPA filters when indoors to filter out air particles from the outdoors. At Unhealthy levels (AQI 151-200), we will assess the current levels and hourly projections to determine program closures. If we decide to keep the building and programs open within this level, we will keep everyone indoors and utilize HEPA filters. At Very Unhealthy levels and beyond (201+), we will close our building and suspend all of our programs. As air quality changes rapidly and is hard to predict, we will take building and program closures on a day-by-day basis. We are in constant communication with local school districts and will also consult with them on AQI if/when appropriate.

What is this year's calendar?

Is there a handbook with more information?

How do I schedule a tour?

Nicole Acland-Whear
Preschool Director

JEWISH starts at the JCC

Your generosity sparks lifelong connections to Jewish community. Please make your year-end gift to the JCC East Bay by December 31.