Spotlight on Schools: Mazel Day School

mazelMazel Day School is a coeducational elementary yeshiva of nearly 250 high-achieving students, founded in 2002 by Russian-Jewish parents. 70 percent of students are from the Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay area, the remainder from other Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Mazel first partnered with Hidden Sparks in 2013 through the Internal Coach Program, sending faculty members to train as Internal Coaches in the school. Rivkah Dahan, Assistant Principal, had worked for Hidden Sparks and knew the value of the program, “The program aligned with our school vision which is very child-centered.” In fact, the school quickly submitted an application for the more comprehensive, External Coach program, though they would have to wait two years for an opening.

Mazel is currently in its second year of the External Coach Program. Says Mrs. Okonov,  “The types of children that Hidden Sparks addresses are those about whom teachers would typically throw their hands in the air, at a loss for how to help them, but now they are talking about the creative ideas they can use to help the child be successful. Taking that perspective is incredible.” Mrs. Dahan echoes this sentiment, “Teachers are now more reflective and less apt to jump to conclusions. I don’t hear the teachers using words like “lazy”, ‘impossible”, or “we can’t”.” Says Okonov, “Teachers are trying to better understand…Hidden Sparks has provided the tools.”

Impact on a teacher:

Teacher’s Perspective: “Hollis (Hidden Sparks External Coach] has been so helpful. I was a first year teacher last year and felt like I was drowning. Hollis saw that I could do it- I need learn what kind of language to use and how to set expectations. After working with her it was like I had a new classroom. She and I even talked over the summer- I needed help scripting the first few days and weeks..She was so crucial to me- I knew that I could always reach out to her.”

Coach’s perspective:  “When I started meeting with this teacher she did not have any systems or procedures set up in her classroom, or any clear expectations. When I came into her classroom this fall, I saw that she had begun the year with many effective systems from day one, and the difference from last year was significant and extremely beneficial to her new students. In addition, her confidence and sense of effectiveness helped her to feel empowered as a teacher.”

Impact on a student:

Jake* has difficulty starting and completing assignments and seems to process information slowly. After just a couple of weeks of school, his teachers were concerned. The Hidden Sparks External Coach had observed Jake last year through her work with his previous teachers and already had a strong sense of his learning profile as well as ideas for strategies to start supporting him straight away. This allowed his teachers to shift from focusing on Jake’s challenges to boosting Jake’s academic success and confidence.

*Name changed to protect privacy.