It was a lesson in cross-cultural learning for a group of teachers, psychologists and philanthropists who travelled from Russia to visit Spark Development Center in Lynbrook on May 4.
The educators, who work at the Interventional boarding school Four in Moscow, Russia, discovered the latest technologies and practices used to teach children with learning disabilities. They were not afraid to examine and question everything around them, and take pictures. “How many children are in the center now?” asked Sasha Kolmanovsky, a bi-lingual Russian psychologist who translated for the group of four teachers who spoke no English.
Komanovsky traveled with his psychologist wife, Natasha, along with teachers Elena Koshechkina, Olga Sidorova, Nina Lisitziny, and Galina Chernyavskay, and humanitarians Natasha Khasanova and Maria Eliseeva. Kim Wepler, founder of the Petrova’s Promise organization dedicated to Russian orphans, also accompanied them. They listened to the center’s owner Rob Stevens talk about their four instructors providing nutrition counseling, cognitive and sensory integration to a dozen children who have various learning and attention issues. He recounted how the program was a tremendous help for his son, Robert: “We started nutrition intervention, sensory and integration work with him,” Stevens said, “and it made a world of difference…that’s why we do what we here.”
The group seemed to understand his passion. This “tremendous problem” of children with attention and emotional problems seemed to hit home with everyone, including Wepler, an Ohio resident who started her organization after adopting three Russian children.
Wepler partnered with Eliseeva, founder of Maria’s Children International, to research what U.S. schools helped special needs’ children. “I wanted to help kids,” she said. She then called one of the center’s parents, Donna Kraus, about a few weeks ago to arrange a visit for the Russian teachers. Despite the weather, the group still wanted to visit though their students were not able to make the trip.