Gan Ami Early Childhood Education says the field ‘chose her’ | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Gan Ami Early Childhood Education says the field ‘chose her’

Shelly Eiland, educator of 3- and 4-year-olds at Gan Ami Early Childhood Education in Whitefish Bay, was going to school for social work when she decided to switch to a career in early education.  

Twenty-five years later, Eiland is still loving the profession that she said “chose her.” While attending class at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the 1990s, a teacher position opened at her son’s daycare. She jumped in and never looked back.  

Eiland has been teaching at Gan Ami for five years. She loves “seeing the children grow and learn, the ‘aha’ moments and the connections with the families …. I just love the children as well. They are funny, and I learn so much from them!” In previous years, Eiland taught at places that she said were more rigid in their curriculum than Gan Ami. Eiland loves the freedom and flexibility that goes along with teaching at a center that uses the Reggio Emilia approach, a teaching philosophy in which children are seen as naturally curious and competent. Teachers focus on self-directed, experiential learning and set up activities that relate to students’ interests. Eiland also follows her students as they go from one grade to the next. She’s staying with her 2- and 3-year-old students for another year. This allows her to build deep relationships with students and see them grow, Eiland said.   

If you ever have the opportunity to spend time with Eiland, the first thing you notice is her beautiful smile and heartfelt, contagious laugh. It’s no wonder that one of the things she wants people to know about her is that she loves to make people laugh! This rang true during our time together, as I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout our entire interview. She would also like people to know that she is creative and caring. Eiland is very involved with Susan G. Koman, a nonprofit that provides resources for breast cancer patients, and is sure to participate in a Race for the Cure every year.  

Eiland grew up as an only child in Milwaukee and has one son who is 27 years old. In her spare time, she loves reading, relaxing, shopping, and learning. Eiland is a frequent attendee at the Learning Opportunities for Milwaukee Educators, or LOMED classes, offered through the Coalition for Jewish Learning. She is also in the fifth cohort of BINAH (Building Inquiry Based Network through Hevruta), a yearlong learning group for Jewish educators. Her favorite things to do in Milwaukee are go to Barnes & Noble and eat out at any restaurant with Latin or Caribbean cuisine, she said. Her favorite Jewish food is latkes. She said she definitely had her fill while teaching about Chanukah this past year!  

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Writer Nicole Boico is the Education and Engagement Specialist for the Coalition for Jewish Learning. The Coalition for Jewish Learning of Milwaukee Jewish Federation is celebrating local educators with this regular feature. To suggest someone for coverage, contact Jewish Education Community Planner Tziporah Altman-Shafer, at