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Jewish school educators take part in mental health conference

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 3/5/2021

Educators from South Florida Jewish schools joined others from around the country in a virtual conference that addressed the challenge of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference was presented by Hidden Sparks, an organization focused on training teachers in Jewish day schools.

Almost 100 educators from nine states came together to collaborate on developing their skills in efforts to create positive and stable experiences for their students during the crisis. They were able to choose from 11 lecture options. Topics included “Recognizing Anxiety in Myself and Others,” “Guided Relaxation Exercises,” “Building a Positive Psychological Toolbox,” “Personal Growth in Difficult Times” and more.

One of the participants was Bianca Senker, an educational consultant in special education and a Hidden Sparks coach who works for multiple local Jewish schools. Among them include Miami Beach institutions Lehrman Community Day School, Hebrew Academy (RASG) and Yeshiva Elementary School, Kesher Program at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach, and Katz Yeshiva High School of South Florida and Torah Academy in Boca Raton.

Senker said, “I think the conference allowed me to understand the importance of nourishing yourself and being able to take time to cultivate activities in your life that are meaningful, such as exercises, spending time with family and being creative in ways that serve purpose to your life.”

“By doing so, you are able to nurture and provide a more optimistic and happier curriculum/teaching experience for your students, because if you take time for yourself, that will inevitably help you feel good about yourself and feeling good about what you are doing in the world with your students.”

Senker continued, “The second part that I took away was understanding how anxiety, stress, feelings of insecurity and uncomfortableness take a tow on a student’s ability to perform in a classroom, specifically in a classroom that might be virtually different than what they’re used to being, where they are socially isolated and not having that one-on-one opportunity to be near somebody.”

“To really understand that helps us in being creative in ways to implement instruction that will keep kids cheerful and engaged,” she said.

Batsheva Marlowe, school counselor at Yeshiva Toras Chaim Toras Emes’ Klurman Campus in North Miami Beach, said, “I think what this conference afforded us was the opportunity to nurture and self-care, and to allow ourselves to bring back what we learned into the classrooms and into the schools.”

The participants heard from leaders such as Rona Novick, dean of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration at Yeshiva University and co-educational director for Hidden Sparks; Lily Howard Scott, Hidden Sparks’ social emotional learning coach; other coaches from the organization; school and clinical psychologists; and an art therapist.

Visit for more information on the organization.


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