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Efshar Project and Early Childhood Service Corps: A Powerful Partnership

This month, we celebrate our successful three-year collaboration with the Early Childhood Service Corps (ECSC)! This innovative program bridges the gap between generations by connecting experienced older adults with young children in Jewish early childhood education (ECE) centers. Not only is there positive, evidence-based research for older adults to engage in meaningful work but it addresses a core staffing early childhood staffing challenge.

Addressing Teacher Shortages and Boosting Professional Development

A major challenge faced by schools nationwide is securing adequate staffing. In May 2024, The Efshar Project received an ElevatEd Experimentation Grant to explore solutions to this teacher shortage. The grant funds a pilot program called “The Relief Squad,” developed by Efshar and ECSC. Trained older adult substitutes from ECSC fill in for teachers at Efshar schools, allowing educators dedicated time for professional development during the workday.

Becky Russell works as an Efshar Relief Squad member at Rodef Shalom two afternoons a week.

Early Success and Expanding Impact

The initial pilot funded by the ElevatEd Experimentation Grant in Spring 2024 proved highly successful. Five ECSC substitutes worked across five different Jewish ECE centers. As Kelli Pfaff, Efshar Project’s Executive Director, says, “This system provides much-needed relief for directors and educators, who can now participate in professional development opportunities to enhance their teaching.”

Sheila Purdin, Director at Temple Sinai Preschool, echoes this sentiment. Having Shannon, a Relief Squad member, allowed her educators to “engage in professional development… by providing a highly trained, consistent, joyful substitute, we love having Shannon!”

ElevatEd Grant Funds Continued Growth 

Starting in the Fall, additional grant dollars will enable Efshar to continue the pilot and continue to fund highly-trained ECSC substitutes. To address educators to participate in Pyramid Plus, a free state-approved 50-hour course, Pyramid Plus, with Efshar Coach and Consultant Natalie Boscoe that qualifies them as lead teachers. Efshar plans to place trained substitutes in schools this fall while teachers take their required coursework. “Courses cost $400-500 per person for each teacher and courses are often held on Saturdays, which poses a challenge for our Jewish community of schools. We heard from our Directors that they wanted to have Efshar run our own state-certification programs and we are thrilled to be able to do that and do it during the day,” Kelli explains.

Intergenerational Collaboration Benefits All

Lisa Armao, Executive Director of ECSC, emphasizes the importance of this partnership: “Without an adequate staff, educator advancement is difficult. We created a unique opportunity for ECSC Encore Subs to participate in ElevatEd. We greatly value our partnership with Efshar that helps to creatively solve problems through partnership.”

Lisa’s work inspires other Jewish ECE communities to explore intergenerational staffing support. This approach not only addresses staffing needs but also fosters meaningful relationships between older adults and young children.

The Efshar Project is proud to strengthen our community and empower educators through this innovative intergenerational partnership with ECSC.