Wilmette, Community

Jewish faith and Montessori education unite at new Wilmette preschool

Gan Montessori, a new Jewish preschool in Wilmette, officially celebrated its launch on April 4.

Esther Leah Teldon, the head of school, welcomed prospective families to the opening and thanked the community at the Fraida-Cameron Chabad Center of Wilmette, 2904 Old Glenview Road, where the school is located.

She said the chabad was instrumental in providing the support needed to make the school operational.

“It really took a village to get here,” Teldon told The Record.

Community members lent expertise on everything from Village zoning issues to educational resources.

Teldon said the plan to open a preschool was set in motion over two years ago when the community recognized a need for more options for early childhood education — a need that has increased with an influx of families new to the area.

The facility of The Gan Montessori in Wilmette.

The Gan, which is Hebrew for “garden” and synonymous with “kindergarten” in Israel, will welcome its first students in August, and in keeping with Montessori philosophy the first class will be a mixed-age group of 3– to 5-year-olds.

The classroom is set up in the Montessori style, designed for independent learning with natural materials, and divided into five main sections: practical life, sensorial, math, language, and science and culture. 

The institution also includes an art center, a “shalom corner” for quiet time and an area dedicated to Jewish learning.

“The Montessori philosophy and how each child has their own path blends so beautifully with Judaism,” said Teldon, who credits curriculum director Rivka Benjamin with fusing the Montessori and Jewish traditions.

All teachers at The Gan are credentialed by the American Montessori Society, she said.

Having worked with children in Hebrew schools and preschools for nearly 20 years, Teldon is passionate about helping excite children around who they are and how they fit in the world, and she recognizes a spark in the students’ eyes when they suddenly “get it.” 

Gan Head of School Esther Leah Teldon (center) is flanked by Curriculum Director Rivka Benjamin (left) and school advisor Jill Greer at the open house April 4.

Being a parent to five daughters, Teldon said she prioritizes a warm, loving environment that will communicate frequently with students’ homes.

Families can choose whether to sign up for half-, extended- or full-day preschool, and have the option to add before- and after-care. The school is open to Jewish children of all levels of observance.

While The Gan is starting small with one class, Teldon said she “would love for this to grow.” Whether classes are added for younger or slightly older students down the line depends on what the community most needs, she said.

“We’re so blessed for the community for receiving us so warmly,” Teldon concluded

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Christine Hinkel Adams

Christine Hinkel Adams has been covering events and news on the North Shore since 2018. A former high school English teacher, Adams grew up in Wilmette and now lives in the area with her husband and two children.

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