My Stoler Early Learning Center Journey

By
February 21, 2023

Jillian Miller, Assistant Director of Noah’s Ark camp, shares her ELC story.

When I sit and think back about where my journey with the ELC began, it seems like such a long time ago and yesterday at the same time. We moved locally in December of 2014 with our 5-year-old daughter and our 2-year-old son, who would soon be joined by a little brother 8 months later. I remember calling the Stoler Early Learning Center before we even moved to sign my daughter up to start in January of 2015 at the preschool and the director seemed surprised that I wanted to sign her up without even having had a tour. Unbeknownst to the director at the time I had positive knowledge of the preschool because my niece was already an ELC graduate, and my nephew was in the three-year-old program. This started my family’s own Stoler journey. 

Fast forward to the following year. My then 2-year-old joined Kim’s class, and with a newborn in tow I started volunteering. I not only became the class parent, but I started taking an active role in the Parents’ Association and spending time helping out in the school library. This continued for the next couple of years until my newborn wasn’t a newborn anymore, and he also joined the ELC. 

By this time, I was pretty much spending half of my days volunteering at Stoler, doing this or that, supporting the preschool anyway I was able to.  Dani Frye, Senior Director of the Stoler Early Learning Center, took notice of my dedication and commitment to the school and started talking to me about officially coming on board as an Assistant Teacher in an Infant/Toddler class. If I wasn’t already the biggest fan of the ELC for everything that they had done for my children, I was after joining the team in January of 2018. I had so much to learn but was eager to jump in with both feet. Which is exactly what I did!  About 4 months later I had completed my 90-hour training to be a Lead teacher and two months after that I was a Lead Counselor at Noah’s Ark. 

After three months of being a lead counselor, I was ready to take on the next challenge and became a lead teacher in the youngest 2’s class. I was still very green, but in addition to the support of our incredible team, I had an advantage that the children in my new class were most of the children I had in my Infant/Toddler class. Knowing their personalities definitely helped me to plan an amazing school year for all of us and then…. COVID hit and the world shut down.

I went virtual with my students for a few months but by this time I had a 5th grader, a second grader, and my youngest was in the Pre-K class at the ELC. It was soon very clear that it would be quite a while before things were going to back to normal, so I unfortunately had to make a very hard phone call to Dani and let her know that I wouldn’t be able to come back to the ELC. One of the best things about the ELC and the JCC in general, is the community and the support that was overwhelming during this time. Dani was very supportive and understood that what was best for me was to be home with my family.

Over the next 2.5 years, Dani and I kept in contact (as best as you can during a worldwide pandemic) and in January of 2022, Dani’s number popped up on my caller ID. We had spoken many times and she assured me that when I was ready, there would be a place for me back at Stoler. So, when I answered the phone and asked if I was able to come sub in a two-year-old class for a month until a new teacher could start, I considered this a sign that perhaps it was the right time. 

As soon as I walked through the doors, it felt like coming home. So much had changed, but so much was still the same. After my month with one of the sweetest two-year-old classes, I accepted a job as the Assistant Director of Noah’s Ark Summer Camp. I was so excited for this next step that I couldn’t wait to get started. After a whirl wind summer, I then accepted the position of Program Coordinator with the ELC. 

The team and the community that Dani and Kim have built at the ELC is something very special and holds a huge part of my heart. I am so grateful to Dani and Kim for recognizing something special and believing in me all those years ago, because it led me to where I am now, and I couldn’t be more excited to see where my journey at Stoler takes me next. 

Do you know someone interested in finding THEIR rewarding Stoler journey? The ELC is growing and hiring for year-round full & part-time positions. For more information, please visit www.jcc.org/elc-jobs

Sign up for our newsletter