TORONTO — Robin Pamensky’s supervisor at the Village Shul’s Tots Together program, Esther Stein, calls her “the queen of sensory.”
At the entrance to Pamensky’s preschool classroom, where she works with two assistants, are “sensory” bins filled with winter-themed items. One has plastic shovels and little snowmen encased in rubber balls on a bed of artificial snow that is cold to the touch. Another holds child-sized mittens and Ziploc bags filled with blocks of ice, each surrounding a toy fish for “ice fishing.”
Classroom activities also combine seasonal and holiday themes with a Jewish component. A “mitzvah mailbox” holds snowflake-shaped notes highlighting children’s good deeds. Around Rosh Hashanah, Pamensky used apple-shaped notes, and notes shaped like leaves reflected an autumn theme.
Young children learn best through their senses, she said. Through free play, she explained, they learn about colour, volume, texture, and language, and at the same time develop their fine motor and cognitive skills.
Pamensky, 46, has a storage room in her house filled with shelves of items she has collected over the years to use in her classrooms. Many of her finds are toys related to sensory development.
Currently working with two- and three-year-olds three mornings a week, Morah Robin, as she’s known to the children, has been at the preschool for eight years.
A native of Teaneck, N.J., Pamensky moved to Toronto with her family 15 years ago from Jerusalem. She and her husband, Moshe, a businessman and native of South Africa who moved here at 13, met in New York. Their large brood ranges in age from seven to 21.
Balancing work and home life hasn’t been an issue for her. “You manage,” she said. “I love what I do… I feel very fortunate.”
She enjoys the “very warm, very nurturing” work environment at the shul, as well as its “Jewish ta’am,” she said.
A graduate of Touro College with a BA in education and Judaic studies, Pamensky began her career as a Grade 1 teacher in New Jersey and worked as a tutor during the seven years she lived in Israel. She obtained her ECE certification after moving to Toronto.
“I always loved teaching,” she said of her passion for her work.
Before she returned to the classroom, while she was a stay-at-home mom, Pamensky wrote a children’s book, Avi’s Adventure in the Mitzvah Car, published by Gefen Publishing House in 1996. She submitted the book, a story in rhyme, on a whim, she said.
In the classroom, humour is useful, Pamensky finds. She might compliment a little girl on her dress, for example, then ask if she can borrow it.
The “key to being successful,” especially with such young children, she said, is to be warm, inviting and nurturing, particularly when greeting them in the morning. “I try to have a great big smile, a nice tone, and I try to make each child feel special in some way.”
A lesson from the teacher: “Each child is a star. Each child needs to shine. It’s the responsibility of the teacher to identify each child’s strength so that they will shine.”