Not even her family knows if Barbara Albert truly appreciated how much she was loved, if she understood how great an impact she had on so many lives.
The lives of her students, many of whom seriously wonder if they would have ever been able to succeed if not for her guidance, her encouragement, her kindness. The lives of her colleagues, who learned from her and not only became better educators but better people as a result. And, of course, the lives of her family, who will miss her dearly.
When Albert, 65, passed away July 26, following a brief illness, she left behind quite a legacy, particularly in the field of special education. Her work and commitment establishing the Resource Center at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy over the past 22 years was instrumental in helping students with learning disabilities and other issues to reach their full potential.
Many of those students and their parents joined Albert’s family and friends to pay their respects at her funeral, July 29, at Goldstein’s Rosenberg Raphael Sacks in Philadelphia. Services were conducted by Rabbi Steven Razin, of Barrack’s Department of Jewish Studies and Tanakh.
“I’m not sure he she would’ve believed the amount of people she touched,” said her husband, Dr. Lewis Albert. “I just kept hearing that. All these kids she taught who have grown up and came back said that without her help, they didn’t know what would’ve happened to them.
“The way they cared and said things about her makes me feel I didn’t realize the impact she had. I don’t know if she did, either.”
At her funeral, Rabbi Razin read from a series of letters and emails he received from parents and former students. They talked about how Albert inspired them, built their confidence or their child’s confidence, made them believe they could overcome what previously seemed to be insurmountable obstacles.
“We had nothing like that here,” said Sharon Levin, headmaster of Barrack. “Kids like that would have outside tutors. With the resource program Barbara built, we were able to take in kids who never could’ve succeeded before.
“She had this ‘You can do it’ attitude and an amazing capacity for nurturing and caring,” Levin added. “By building their self-esteem and confidence, she taught them to know what they could achieve. Now we have kids who’ve been in that program getting Ph.D’s.”
In his eulogy, Razin spoke of Albert’s commitment and ability to reach students. “Everything was about the students,” he said. “She helped develop the resource center into what it is today, because of her unique way to reach adolescents. I learned over the years from Barbara different methods and strategies of teaching and reaching students and reminding them we have faith in them and know they can succeed.”
He concluded his remarks with a quote she herself had hand-picked from the advice columnist, Ann Landers. “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”
Barrack officials indicate they will plan an appropriate memorial for Albert when students return to school next month. They also would like to create an award or fund in her honor.
Following their marriage, while her husband was attending podiatry school in Cleveland, she began teaching in the inner city, receiving the Martha Holden Jennings Award, which recognizes the most effective teacher in the state. She then became more involved with special education, receiving her master’s from Penn State, then working at the University School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., before returning to the Philadelphia area to work at what was then Akiba.
Barbara Albert is survived by her husband, Lewis, sons Ryan and Shawn, two sisters and two grandchildren.