April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Local Educators Join ‘Hidden Sparks’ Day of Learning

The day of learning focused on the role of emotions in the classroom.

Chana Luchins, RPRY; Ethel Salomon, Hidden Sparks; Penny Kaplan, Netivot Montessori; Michal Falk, Yeshivas Shagas Aryeh.

(Courtesy of Hidden Sparks) The emotional well-being of children is a hot button issue in local day schools and yeshivas. Hidden Sparks, a nonprofit focusing on training teachers and providing them with the tools to support struggling students in mainstream Jewish day schools, recently convened a day of learning to address this concern. Eighty Jewish educators, including participants from from Ben Porat Yosef, JEC, Ma’ayanot, RYNJ, Sinai at JKHA, Sinat at RYNJ, Yavneh Academy and Yeshivat Noam came together to collaborate on developing their skills and toolboxes for creating a positive and supportive environment for their students.

Educators participated in workshops presented by local school leaders that included a panel session featuring Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, head of school at Yavneh Academy, and Dr. Rayzel Yaish, head of guidance at Maayanot, and a workshop on addressing anxiety in the classroom from past Ma’ayanot guidance team member Dr. Oshra Cohen.

Jenny Pavel and Miriam Benovitz from Yeshivat Noam with Tamar Appel of
Hidden Sparks.

Participants also heard from leading education experts including Dr. Rona Novick, dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University and co-educational director for Hidden Sparks, and Lily Howard Scott, Hidden Sparks’ social emotional learning coach.

Chana Luchins, principal of general studies at RPRY, has been participating in Hidden Sparks programs for many years and attends the learning retreat annually. “The Hidden Sparks retreat creates a venue for like-minded educators to accelerate their forward thinking momentum. I appreciate the qualities of warmth, intentionality, collaboration and joy palpable in the program,” said Luchins.

Panel with (l-r) Rabbi Knapp, Yavneh;
Tamar Appel; and Dr. Rayzel Yaish, Ma’ayanot.

Debbie Niderberg, executive director of Hidden Sparks, has been hosting this retreat for over a decade. “This year’s theme about the interconnectedness of emotion and learning was especially powerful given Oct. 7, the war in Israel, the rise in antisemitism in the U.S., and all of the emotions that teachers and students are experiencing. The retreat gave us the language for exploring emotions in our classrooms and talking with students, a deeper understanding of how anxiety manifests at different ages, how schools can foster a culture of belonging and support, and how to apply all of the day’s takeaways to a teacher’s practice. Above all, it was an inspiring day full of deep learning, large and small strategies, and an opportunity to celebrate our extraordinary teachers.”

Hidden Sparks has worked with over 350 day schools across the country and this year’s topic was based on feedback from school leaders and teachers who shared that creating a positive and nurturing school community continues to be utmost in their mind.

Tzippy Staum, Sinai RYNJ; Faye Kohn, RYNJ; Dr. Rayzel Yaish, Ma’ayanot; Dr. Rona Novick.
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