After a relaxing summer, the new faculty members at Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) were invited to a welcome luncheon to meet the administration and learn about the workings of YCQ. The following day, all staff returned for meetings and training and to set up their classrooms to prepare for the school year. At the meetings, the staff heard about the new junior-high Chromebook program, the added security and building upgrades, and other school policies, as they got reacquainted with old colleagues and friends, met new ones, and discussed summer break, as well as new ideas for the coming year.
During part two of the staff trainings on Tuesday, September 3, Rabbi Jonathan Rietti of Gateways Seminar Program discussed the facets of teaching and the importance of creating an environment where each student feels important and valued. He spoke about how this positive relationship between teacher and student can be attained by speaking positively to the students and encouraging them in their educational growth and love of Torah.
Following the meetings, the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) held their annual Preschool Bash, a program geared to give incoming preschool students and their families a chance to get to meet other children and their teachers and morot with whom they will be in class. This is the second year the event was held, with attendance of around 300 people. Each preschool class was given a color and the students received name tags in those colors and sat at tables with their class color. The students made a project donated by the Jewish Heritage Museum and heard about the activities and learning experiences they will have at school. The idea behind this program is to help the young children transition more smoothly into the yeshiva setting.
The staff and administration at YCQ have a goal to help students comfortably acclimate to the yeshiva environment and to feel safe, excited, and happy in their learning environment while they are away from home. Preschool and first-grade students attend an orientation on day one of school along with their parents to help transition them into their new classroom settings.
For the new students past preschool age, the social work department runs an annual YCQ New Mentor Program. Student mentors were chosen from grade eight and paired up with new students. The students played Human Bingo as an ice-breaker game. “I think it is good that someone who has been in the school before can answer questions for the new students. This is my tenth year at YCQ; I know how things work so I can be supportive. This was a good opportunity to help other kids,” said Atara Peretz, who was set up with Ethan Bellehsen, grade one. Another student mentor, Leah Miriam Borenstein, was paired with Taliah Taasa, grade four. Leah Miriam said, “I understand how hard it is to come when everybody is already friends, I also started YCQ in the fourth grade. I was scared and nervous. My mentor was Ayelet Landsman, and she answered questions and helped me feel a little more comfortable. I was happy to be able to help Taliah feel a little more comfortable.”
The excitement and energy were felt and heard as students gave hugs to their friends and quickly made new friends. They met their new teachers, rebbeim, and morot, and learned about expectations and exciting learning opportunities for their classes. The teachers worked hard on creating well-thought-out and interesting bulletin boards that along with the improvements to the physical building combined gave a warm and welcoming feeling as YCQ got off to a fabulous start to the 2019–2020 academic year.