Parents and colleagues alike laud Jewish early childhood educator Ellyn Weisz for her mastery in community building. One parent described her as able to sculpt "an entire generation of Jewish learners who have been raised to support each other and help the world."
For her devotion to Jewish education, Weisz--an Early Childhood Director at Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates--was chosen as the 2021 recipient of the Sue Pinsky Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
"The Pinsky Award is about innovative educators who are exc
eptionally passionate and dedicated to the field of Jewish early childhood education," said Jenna Turner, Director of Early Childhood Learning at JUF. The award includes a $4,000 cash prize and an extra $1,000 for the school. It is presented to one teacher after a nomination and selection process involving lay leaders, the JUF Education early childhood team, and Sue Pinsky, for whom the award is named.
Created in Pinsky's honor, this award was established by Sue's son, Mark, and his wife, Lisa. They endowed a gift through JUF's Agency Endowment Program to ensure that this award will be given in perpetuity.
Like Pinsky, Weisz has proven her dedication from the beginning. After earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in early childhood education at Roosevelt University, Weisz began her post-graduate teaching career with two years at Anshe Sholom in Olympia Fields, then taught for nearly 35 years at the Board of Jewish Education Early Childhood Center before becoming the early childhood director of Beth Tikvah. She has worked there for the last nine years and has also taught religious school part time, also at Beth Tikvah, for 22 years.
Those who nominated her described Weisz's career as a "labor of love" and said her passion "shines through every single class." In the classroom, Weisz cultivates the qualities of young children that she most enjoys: curiosity, honesty, compassion, energy, and a great sense of humor. "I love this age group," she enthused.
The Chicago Jewish community recently gathered to celebrate Weisz at the award ceremony for the Pinsky Award. "The ceremony was amazing," said Weisz, a Hoffman Estates resident. "I truly am so humbled and grateful for this award. Our school is a very small school and I never thought that it was something that would happen. I was incredibly shocked when they told me I had won. I'm thrilled and honored."
In addition to her role as educator, Weisz is also a wife, mother, and grandmother. So professionally and personally, children mean the world to her. "What's really important to me is that the children are happy," she said. She hopes to ensure "that they come to school and they're having a great time, are happy to be there, have made friends, and the families have connected to me. Our sense of community is really important to me."