JCC Mid-Westchester Honors
Larchmont-Based Nursery School Teacher
Caryn Symons, JCC Mid-Westchester Nursery School
director (left) and Donna DiFalco, JCC Mid-Westchester Heart and Soul Award recipient (right)
The JCC Mid-Westchester (JCCMW) honored Larchmont resident Donna DiFalco at it 2022 Spring fundraiser. Ms. DiFalco received the Heart and Soul Award for the 40 years of service she’s dedicated to the children who have attended the JCCMW Nursery School.
Ms. DiFalco began working at the JCCMW in 1982, directly after graduating from SUNY Albany where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. At the JCCMW, she quickly realized that teaching was her calling. The work gave her a strong sense of purpose and she grew to love the students, who she refers to collectively as “her kids.” Approximating that her classrooms had about 17 children each year on average, Ms. DiFalco has personally facilitated the educational and social development of roughly 680 children in Westchester.
“I get so attached,” Ms. DiFalco says about the JCCMW Nursery School students. “It becomes difficult to say goodbye at the end of the year, but knowing you’ll get to begin again with a new class in the fall helps get you through.”
According to Ms. DiFalco, nursery schools have undergone some significant changes since she first stepped in front of a classroom. Today’s curricula emphasize socialization, mindfulness and conflict resolution in ways that didn’t happen 40 years ago. Still, she says, the kids are still kids. They need high-quality, age-appropriate instruction; caring adults highly attuned to the needs of children; and plenty of room for fun and exploration – all points of focus at JCCMW.
“Donna is an exceptional teacher and a world-class champion for kids,” said Caryn Symons, JCCMW’s Nursery School Director. “She has an uncanny, even magical ability to connect with children on an individual level and meet their learning needs whatever they might be. We have been so lucky to have her in our community.”
Ms. DiFalco has no plans to retire in the foreseeable future. She says teaching keeps her active, along with taking long walks with her beloved golden retriever Jack.
The JCCMW fundraiser, “A Night Under the Stars” took place on Tuesday, May 17th. In addition to Ms. DiFalco, the event honored Scarsdale High School student Samantha Friedland, who received the center’s “Volunteer of the Year” award.