About Us

WHO WE ARE

Christine has had a private Educational Therapy practice in San Francisco for 17 years.

CHRISTINE FORDSTROM

B.S. Biological Anthropology, U.C. Davis

M.A. Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Educational Therapy Certificate Program, U.C. Berkeley Extension

christine@sfspark.com

415.840.4989

Paul has been teaching English for the last 33 years both in the US and abroad, and has had a private Educational Therapy practice in San Francisco for the last 17 years.

PAUL GABRIEL

B.A., M.A. English, Stanford University

Educational Therapy Certificate Program, U.C. Berkeley Extension

paul@sfspark.com

415.310.6640

OUR STORY

In 2004, Paul and Christine met during their first class in the Educational Therapy Certificate Program at U.C. Berkeley Extension and quickly became friends and colleagues.

Both had been working with adults for most of their professional lives at the university level. Christine had trained as a scientist focused on primates while Paul had focused on the humanities and language arts in settings both abroad and here in the U.S.

Despite the apparent gap separating the "arts" and "sciences", as they pursued their new training in educational therapy and had many conversations about what they were learning, they came to two insights about what was common to their experience both as university teachers and fledgling educational therapists:

  1. The field had focused on K-4 intervention in diagnosis, testing and remediation under the very understandable assumption that by catching a learning difference or executive functioning early, professionals and educators might be able to drastically reduce its effect on later learning and life skills.

This hope later turned out not to be the case, unfortunately. Early intervention is absolutely critical but it is not curative. Learning challenges change as students grow and change.

  1. Because of this assumption, the field had put much less professional focus on remediation of students in middle school, high school and college, although we realized in comparing notes as university teachers that all the skills needed for higher-level learning get their foundation starting around the 5th grade.

Starting in middle school, students move between subject-specific classrooms; need to use planners, be increasingly responsible for their school materials, and manage extended homework assignments and deadlines; have to deal with learning formats that are less intuitive and hands on and more abstract and decontextualized; and they must start assuming more independence around monitoring their own learning needs and advocating for themselves.

For all these reasons, we decided to focus our energy and studies on working with kids from 5th grade on, whose learning needs change as their learning and executive functioning challenges change. In 2005, starting with a group of 6 kids around Christine's dining room table one summer, over the next few years we expanded into our present format of providing small, intensive, hands-on clinics run by well-trained professionals.

We are dedicated to making sure we address not only the unique needs of non-typical learners but also the common hurdles they will face with each different phase of their academic journey toward college and beyond.

The kids we have worked with have gone on to great careers and have attended challenging high schools and colleges. But more importantly, they have learned to embrace their differences, build authentic confidence, and gain self-respect and self-awareness. Watching that transformation and being part of helping it along is what has sustained and inspired us, and what prompted us to come up with our name--Sparking Your Genius!