Rabbi Werner (R)
Rabbi Werner (R) Hidden Sparks

The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB) and Hidden Sparks are celebrating the fifth year of a collaborative effort to help struggling learners in mainstream classes. As part of the partnership, HALB utilizes an embedded Hidden Sparks Coach, Tamar Bauman, PhD., who works with educators on-site each week while also mentoring the school’s other education coaches.

Hidden Sparks is the leading nonprofit focused on providing Jewish day school educators with the tools to support struggling students in mainstream classrooms.

Hidden Sparks began its work with HALB in its middle school in 2017, and then expanded its program the following year to serve educators and students in the institution’s elementary and early childhood divisions. Over the course of the half decade of the collaboration, Hidden Sparks has worked directly with more than 66 educators in HALB.

“One of the most frustrating experiences for teachers is not being able to help the student who’s physically present but struggling to succeed in their classrooms,” said Hidden Sparks Executive Director Debbie Niderberg. “Tamar and the HALB teachers collaborate to identify who are the struggling students, where the learning breakdown is occurring, and how to improve the situation for the student to help them succeed. Their work together also involves how to talk to the student so that the student can gain the skills not just for one class or for this year, but for their whole school experience.”

“Hidden Sparks has trained our staff to look for the strengths of each child rather than only focusing upon the weaknesses,” said HALB Lower School Principal Richard Altabe. “Over the course of our partnership with the organization, Hidden Sparks has completely transformed the nature of the conversation about children in need of intervention. When teachers share strategies that work for the differentiated needs of each child and learn from them so they can help children with similar difficulties, we are giving these students the best preparation and chances to succeed throughout their academic careers.”

Outside of the Hidden Sparks program at school, its educators also partake in high-level professional development courses the group offers. These courses focus on a myriad of topics including social emotional learning techniques, helping students cope with pandemic-related anxieties and other techniques educators can deploy in the classroom. Some also participate in teams and receive training to become “Hidden Sparks Peer Coaches.”