Spotlight on Schools: Hebrew Academy of Nassau County

HANC is a Modern Orthodox Day school of 300 students in West Hempstead, NY which has participated intensively in Hidden Sparks programs  since 2008. Having much of their faculty trained by a Hidden Sparks coach has allowed Hidden Sparks principles to seep deeply into every area of the school. According to Barbara Deutsch,  Associate Principal, “  Coach] Dr. Sara Reichman is a unique gift. She is helping HANC faculty to collaborate using  a common language and create an environment where children can grow emotionally and academically.” 

Highlights of Impact on faculty:

  • Mrs. Deutsch: “As a result of Hidden Sparks, we now use a collaborative model in almost all decision making, have implemented peer level mentoring, and use the case study approach when we grapple with a problem. We are also very focused on learning styles, particularly our own, when trying to figure out how to help a child. HANC now has a feeling of partnership and ownership when addressing issues affecting school climate and student welfare.”
  • Faculty members credit Coach Dr. Sara Reichman with encouraging them to collaborate and draw on each other’s’ knowledge and describe instances where they now meet each other in the hallway, asking each other “can you ‘Hidden Sparks’ this for me?”, when they are experiencing difficulties.
  • Mrs. Nenner, a Kindergarten teacher, feels that the training and coaching she has received inform every part of her teaching, “ It affects and encompasses every piece of the child and every piece of the teaching- the whole child and the whole class…I can really sit with a student and talk about their strengths and what’s working as well as the things that they find to be a challenge.”

Highlights of Impacts on Students:

  • Case Study: Shmuli was having a particularly “bad day” at school, having trouble paying attention. The child’s teacher contacted an administrator who was not in school that day to report the problem. The administrator was familiar with the student’s unstable home life, and relayed this information to the teacher. As the administrator described, “In some school environments, the [teacher] would say ‘this is school, he has to pay attention, he knows what he has to do.’ But in our school, the first comment back to me was ‘I feel so bad, what can I do to help this child.’” The administrator credited Hidden Sparks’s ecological lens with giving administrators and teachers the tools to check and understand how a student’s home environment can affect their performance at school. In the administrator’s words, it “broadens our already pretty strong understanding of what a child need in order to be successful.”
  • Case Study: Judah was having trouble sitting still and was causing disruptions in the classroom. By meeting directly with the student and using demystification, Judah’s teacher helped him develop his own strategies for staying focused and minimizing disruption. The teacher focused on the student’s strengths in the conversation, gave him the power to create his own solution, and he ran with it. By “taking ownership” of his own learning and feeling like he was in charge, his confidence increased and Judah was able to pay better attention.