Rabbi Meir Muller’s recent appointment to the South Carolina Child Care Coordinating Council, bespeaks a collective milestone for Chabad-Lubavitch educators everywhere.
Muller is the principal of the South Carolina Jewish Day School, a Chabad community day school with a current enrollment of nearly 100 in Columbia, South Carolina. Just two weeks ago, he was appointed by South Carolina’s Governor Mark Sanford to join a group of 15 professors, educators and public officials on the SC Child Care Council, a six-year-old think tank dedicated to determining standards for early childhood care in the state.
It’s a challenging position and one that Muller comes to well equipped, with twelve years of educating experience behind him and a nearly completed doctorate in early childhood education. But beyond that, according to Rabbi Nochem Kaplan of the Chinuch Office, the central Chabad office for education, it’s also the first position of its kind for a Chabad educator anywhere, and an encouraging sign of the times.
“Chabad schools are at the forefront of early childhood education, an area that has recently become the focus of many of the educational initiatives in the Jewish world and beyond,” Kaplan says. In schools and kindergartens across the world, Chabad educators devote countless resources to honing their technique in the education of their youngest pupils, and it’s heartening, Kaplan says, to see that expertise being officially recognized by policy makers on the state level.
Muller, whose day school students range in age from two years to thirteen, with more than half the school’s enrollment in kindergarten and below, concurs. He says his school’s focus on early childhood is indicative of a trend prevalent in the field of education in recent years. “People are paying more attention to what and how preschool-aged kids are learning, and understanding the tremendous effects this has on their adult behavior,” he says. In the case of Jewish education, early childhood education also serves as a way to bring entire families closer to the Jewish community, Kaplan adds. “The effect of a joyous and positive Jewish educational experience on a very young child can be tremendous, and extend beyond the child to affect the entire family,” he says.
It takes a lot to provide a fully well balanced early childhood experience, and Muller, now on the state team to set- and raise- the standards for that experience in South Carolina, knows that all too well. “Particularly in the case of very young children, you need to provide physical nurturing while at the same time implementing a curriculum to teach literacy,” he says. The team is currently working on a rating system to be known as the “Palmetto Stars”- named for the state’s tree- which will rate schools based on their success in achieving that balance. “The idea is to allow for parents to easily assess what kind of experience this program will offer their child, and for early childhood programs to work their way up to a certain standard,” Muller notes. Other activities of the