Supporting Teachers as Leaders at 14th Street Y Preschool


Supporting Teachers as Leaders Through Peer to Peer Mentorship

This Site Visit Journal will help you understand one particular community's approach through the eyes of their educational leaders.

  • 14th Street Y Preschool, New York, NY
  • Reggio Inspired School Change
  • Liz Hirsch, School Director
  • Site Visit, January 2014, Update 2016
Liz Hirsch

Director Liz Hirsch has over 30 years of experience in the Early Childhood Educational field. She began her work at the 14th Street Y Preschool as a consultant and became the Director in 2008. During her tenure at the Y, she introduced the Reggio Approach. She was able to obtain professional development grants that enabled one-third of her teachers to be a part of study groups in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Her work with Mark Horowitz, Vice President of Early Childhood of the JCCA and former Executive Director, Stephen Hazon-Arnoff, has been instrumental in guiding their Jewish curriculum development. Liz was part of the first Jewish Early Childhood Education Leadership Institute (JECELI) cohort, which enriched her knowledge of Jewish texts and ways to present and interpret them, leadership, organizational frameworks and deeper learning about the environment.She was the Director of the Field Experience Office at Wheelock College in Boston for seven years and the Assistant Principal in the Lower School at Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School in NYC for ten years. Liz has a MS in Leadership from Bank Street College of Education and a BS in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College.

14th St Y child at table

Description of School Change/Innovation:

The 14th Street Y Preschool has developed over the past six years in size and program. The Reggio approach was introduced to the Preschool in 2008. Both the enrollment growth and program enrichment have been exciting as well as demanding. It is a clear reflection of the quality of the teachers, their deepening understanding of the Reggio approach, and the investment in their growth. This growth has been facilitated by staff attendance at conferences and workshops, in-service training and professional consultations. To date, four teachers, the art teacher and the director have attended study groups in Reggio Emilia, Italy. In underscoring the teachers’ professional growth and supporting their talents, a role as teacher trainers further adds to the curriculum. The three head teachers play different roles: supporting colleagues around classroom management issues; ensuring that the afternoon program of explorations reflects a developmentally sound experience for the children; and using special needs expertise to support colleagues. The rich array of specialists has enhanced the program in many ways. Movement, music, art and storytelling are essential elements of the Reggio Approach and aesthetic. The school draws from talented working artists who bring enrichment focused on all the children’s senses.

Participant Quote:

"I really enjoyed the experience last week in the city. It was a very worthwhile visit!"

- Robyn Teigman Central Synagogue Rockville Centre

14th St Y pictures and blocks

More about the 14th Street Y Preschool’s Innovation:

Liz says, “We focus on the exploration of how we make visible who we are as a Jewish Preschool. We ask ourselves, ‘What are the Jewish values that resonate with us and our diverse community? What does this look like at the 14th Street Y Preschool, how is it enacted, articulated, and what does this encompass? How does this correlate to the Parenting, Family and Early Childhood Center? And the Y? Relationship building is a key element in all aspects of leadership and the empowerment of secondary leadership facilitates staff growth and sense of ownership and commitment.”

Site Update:

After the conclusion of the 2015-2016 school year the 14th Street Preschool experienced a leadership change. Liz Hirsch retired from her role as the director and her shoes have been filled by Michael Luft who shares the vision of a child centered, progressive and welcoming program, inspired by Reggio-Emilia and Jewish sensibilities. Michael will work with Nili Talis Shriber who is now the Associate Director of the school. Nili was the 3s teacher during our visit and has a graduate degree in Special Education.

Forward Thinking/Guided Questions:

  1. How well are your school specialists integrated into your larger school vision?

  2. What steps can you take to empower staff to become teacher leaders?

  3. In what ways are you supporting the individual passions of each staff member on your team?




  • Early Childhood
  • Family Engagement
  • Educator Training