New Initiatives at Halpern Akiva Academy

(AJNews) – Since Halpern Akiva Academy’s inception 40 years ago, it has always looked for ways to stay relevant and pivot with the changing needs of students in the community, while retaining its focus on Academic Excellence with a Love of Torah. Most recently, these new challenges have brought a full-featured STEM Lab to Akiva, the introduction of the Renert Brightminds math curriculum, as well as a new Montessori-inspired preschool and daycare program.

Mrs. Kizhakke Vendekkan is Daycare Director at Halpern Akiva Academy in Calgary.

Mrs. Kizhakke Vendekkan (or Mrs. V. as the students call her) has been the Daycare Director at Halpern Akiva Academy since 2017. She has a Bachelors of Education and a Masters in Mathematics, and has a Montessori Certificate, as well as a Child Development Supervisor Certificate.

Her teaching goals include sharing her love for teaching and guiding children while providing a fun and creative environment. She is a passionate Montessori educator who is always looking to perform at the highest standards. She respects children’s rights at all levels.

Montessori is a method of teaching that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. The Montessori approach to education is based on the work and research of Dr. Maria Montessori. It provides students a carefully planned, stimulating environment that helps them develop an excellent foundation for learning and leadership.

The daycare and preschool have now incorporated five key areas of learning which make up the Montessori elements: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Mathematics, and Culture

We asked Mrs. V what she sees as the benefits of the Montessori Program.

“As a Montessori Teacher and Parent, I can honestly say that I fell in love with Montessori at first sight. Over the years, I’ve watched my own son benefit in so many ways because of his educational experiences. His love for learning. academic abilities, compassion and self motivation are all qualities he’s attained from this superb form of learning.”

Mrs. V. explained that Montessori has several special approaches to learning:

Fostering independence – Everything about a Montessori classroom fosters independence. You first start with the classroom that is prepared to allow the child to do for themselves what an adult would often do for a child. Enter a room and you will watch a three-year-old sweeping the floor with a child-sized broom, cleaning a mirror or folding washcloths that are the right size for their hands. The pride you see in these children who are able to “do it themselves” without asking for help from an adult is incredible!

Creating a sense of order – All objects and activities have precise locations on the shelves of a Montessori classroom. When children are finished with an activity, they place items back into their appropriate places. This sense of order helps facilitate the learning process, teaches self-discipline, and caters to a young child’s innate need for an orderly environment. When children work and play in an area that is neat and predictable, they can unleash their creativity and focus fully on the learning process. This sense of order is especially needed now when there is so much change in the world.

Hands-on learning – One of the greatest benefits of the Montessori Method, particularly during the early learning experiences, is the focus on hands-on learning. The emphasis is on concrete, rather than abstract learning, as students work on activities that teach language, math, culture, and practical life lessons. Teachers encourage students to focus on activities until they are properly mastered, rather than rushing them to another activity.

Leah Moldofsky and her 3-year old daughter Bluma are new to Halpern Akiva Academy. Bluma loves coming to school and is happy to engage in the various Montessori activities. Her grandmother Nechama has been a teacher for many decades and says, “As a teacher I notice how kids engage in play. When I look at Bluma, I see a happy child involved in the activity the way it’s meant to be used. I see toys that are colourful, fun, large-sized and sturdily constructed. The children are engaging in intellectually stimulating activities that also target fine motor coordination, math skills, and logical deduction.”

Mrs. Vendekkan is already seeing positive learning outcomes in her class – children are showing more independence, coordination, and confidence. She is also seeing more cooperation among peers and more children caring about social responsibility. She is excited to see the growth in the children as the school year unfolds.


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