AJA Announces New Teachers

Community News, The Jewish Outlook

Sep 1, 2020

Allyson Peller and Janessa McLean. Courtesy of Peller and McLean.

By Allyson Peller and Janessa Mclean

As the largest kindergarten class at Austin Jewish Academy moves into first grade, the school has expanded its team. Allyson Peller and Janessa McLean are the new faces of AJA first grade. Peller joined AJA last school year, and McLean is new to the program this year. They both bring a variety of teaching experiences with them, which will build on the growth of the celebrated kindergarten program. 

Peller begins her fifth year of teaching, previously in a Montessori setting, an urban school district and a Native American charter school. She moved from Michigan last year and fit into the Texas lifestyle right away. Her diverse experience aligns well with AJA’s progressive approach to education.

McLean begins her ninth year of teaching, previously in South Korea, a public school near Chicago and a local school for gifted students. McLean’s experiences have taught her that students want to be heard, loved and engaged in learning. She sees herself as a facilitator to learning through whom students can explore their interests and passions and provides students with resources and ways to share with their peers. She is also from Illinois, which makes the prospect of working with another Midwesterner in Austin even more exciting for both teachers.

Fall 2020 is an uncertain time for education throughout the United States. With the question of how and when schools will reopen on the forefront of the minds of teachers and school administrators, there is a sense of apprehension and a lack of control on the part of students, parents, teachers and school leaders.  

Peller and McLean are jumping right into the task of reassuring students and reworking their curriculum and approach, all while maintaining and relying on their teaching philosophies as they move forward. Both Peller and McLean feel that providing a comforting, safe space is the most important aspect of their philosophies year after year. 

This year will be no different. While some of the logistics will look different from the past, these teachers remain certain that each child who enters their physical or virtual classrooms will know that everyone can excel and offer the most to the classroom community, all while feeling secure in a time where education will look and feel unlike ever before.

Both teachers are passionately committed to helping each child find a love for learning, and they believe that now, more than ever, social-emotional learning (SEL) will guide them and their students toward growth. With a focus on SEL, Peller and McLean feel as though they will support students to engage in new ways and to become intrinsically motivated in a way that will promote productive struggle and both academic and personal growth. ■

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