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The Windward School


Beacon The Windward School Newsletter for Educators and Parents Fall 2016

Executive Function: What It Is, Why It Matters By Mark Bertin, MD Mark Bertin, MD, presents Building Executive Function: From Childhood to Adulthood … and Everyone in Between at The Windward School’s Fall Community Lecture on Wednesday, October 19, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. at Windward’s Red Oak Campus. There is no fee to attend this lecture. Reservations are required. Visit for more details.

In This Issue Executive Function: What It Is, Why It Matters By Mark Bertin, MD Page 1 How Children Learn to Read By Maria Konnikova Page 4 Head Lines: The Debate Over Extended Time By Dr. John J. Russell Page 6 Welcome to Windward Manhattan Page 8 Alumni Profile: Emma Frank ‘10 Page 10

Recent advances in medicine allow researchers to peer into the minds of children in ways never before imagined. At the forefront of this research is a constellation of mental abilities called executive function (EF) that directly influences everything from school readiness to how happy and successful a child will eventually become in life. Previously thought to be an abstract skill set that was fairly stable throughout the lifespan, scientists now know that development of EF begins during infancy and progresses through our mid to late 20s (Hinshaw and Scheffler, 2014). These cognitive skills act as the “brain manager,” coordinating how the developing mind learns to think, organize, plan for the future, and regulate emotions. More than any single set of skills, EF influences every aspect of day-to-day living, from performance in school and recreational activities, to emotional stability, navigating social situations and building personal relationships. Early childhood executive function on its own has been linked to adolescent and adult social competence (Mischel et al., 2010), with one study even connecting preschool executive function to adult measures of health, wealth, and the likelihood of getting in trouble with the law (Moffitt et al., 2011). Of course, not every child who struggles with executive function experiences lifelong difficulty; these are just trends across groups. Most importantly, an understanding of EF helps professionals and parents guide everything from common-sense behavioral management in young children to supporting teenagers as they mature into adults. Executive function explains the link between seemingly disparate topics on the minds of anyone working with children nowadays. Terms like mindfulness, resilience, grit, mindset, and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) all turn out to relate to its development.

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Developing the skills to manage everyday life Just as a business requires someone to synchronize the activity of its employees, the brain must manage our moment-to-moment experiences. One part of the brain, the frontal lobes, integrates what we know with what we encounter and how we respond. Executive function encompasses the underlying set of cognitive skills required to coordinate thinking, drive learning, monitor behavior, identify mistakes, and plan for the future and defines a host of other self-regulatory tasks essential to everyday life. Monitoring executive function helps us meet the needs of children wherever they are in their development throughout life. The implications begin early as, amazingly enough, preschoolers with strong EF appear more likely to succeed academically all the way through college (Mischel et al., 2010). The following framework, (adapted from Brown, 2006), defines executive function as six related skill groups: • Attention management The ability to sustain focus when challenged, shift attention, and avoid hyperfocus (becoming too absorbed) when engaged in an enjoyable task. • Action management The ability to control behavior, self-monitor, and learn from mistakes. • Task management The ability to organize, plan, prioritize, and manage time. • Information management The ability to remember, organize, and retrieve information. • Emotional management The ability to experience emotions without impulsively acting on them. • Effort management The ability to persevere when activities are challenging, to sustain focus, and to work efficiently. While much of EF is genetically programmed, research suggests that it is also influenced by upbringing and environment. In other words, EF can potentially be enhanced or hindered depending on the choices adults make. One of the most important decisions is protecting open-ended free play in our busy techdriven lives, not only to let kids be kids but because free play itself guides the development of executive function (Barnett et al., 2008). Imaginative games, for example, require working memory to keep track of the details (We’re going to the moon...), cognitive flexibility to follow along with changes (Now we’re pirates...), and impulse control (Wait, I wanted to stay out in space...). Studies in

the emerging field of EF have found potential benefits from a range of activities including exercise, games requiring strategy and concentration (such as chess), curricula that directly teach aspects of executive function, and the practice of mindfulness. Understanding EF also allows parents and teachers to make skillful choices and reject misleading ideas that otherwise might create needless worry. It sheds light on the risk of pushing academics too soon (Hinshaw and Sheffler, 2014) and suggests that technology has potential benefits but a distinct downside when under-monitored by adults (Christakis, 2004; Swing et al., 2010). Screen time looks like intense concentration from the outside, but it provides constantly shifting content that in reality encourages little sustained attention at all. Executive function also explains countless aspects of child behavior, such as why a toddler cannot relate delayed punishment to a current misbehavior or why teenagers often fail to consider long-sighted consequences of their actions.

Self-management across the lifespan There is a typical developmental path to mature executive function similar to language, motor, and social abilities. As it progresses, for example, toddlers begin to learn impulse control, and preschoolers gain the capacity to take others’ perspectives. By school age, skills expand around memory, organizing and planning, and sustaining attention–all critical for classroom learning as well as integral to reading, writing, and math. Adolescents strive for independence and need opportunities to try things on their own but still lack mature executive function. Although puberty brings a burst of cognitive development, long-term thinking, planning and impulse control are not fully grown for many more years. Teenagers may not see the potential implications of getting a tattoo on their face or texting a risqué photo. They may have the intellectual capacity to tackle intense high school academics without an equal ability to handle the pressures emotionally or logistically. While it is important to encourage exploration and growth, adult guidance must continue until teens prove responsible. Executive function, a basis of forethought and planning, does not typically become fully established until adulthood. Relatedly, ADHD affects areas of the brain responsible for executive function, explaining the wide-ranging impact of this common childhood condition. Individuals with ADHD rarely have difficulty with attention or hyperactivity alone, almost always struggling with a larger range of executive function skills. To fully address ADHD, therefore, is to see it as a developmental delay in executive function that can impact not only academics but also social relations, emotional well-being, and even physical health, where ADHD has been linked to concerns including obesity. Remediating for executive function deficits across all

Fall 2016 The Beacon

areas of life as they evolve over time is the core to comprehensive care. What does all of this mean for those of us who live and work with children? While executive function skills are largely defined by genetics, we can support their growth through the choices we make. Awareness of the role of executive function in family scheduling and in classroom discipline eases decision making and helps children feel more successful. For anyone living with ADHD, these guidelines become even more vital as the heart of successful management relies on anticipating the far-reaching effects of executive function. Recognizing this one developmental path guides us at home, in the classroom, and as a community. For children or adults, executive function relates to our capacity to learn and to overcome the unavoidable challenges and stresses of daily life. Taking time to support these vital abilities in ourselves and in our children allows families and classrooms to thrive. Article adapted from Mindful Parenting for ADHD, by Mark Bertin, MD, copyright 2015 by New Harbinger Press.

References Brown, T. E. 2006. Inside the ADD mind. ADDitude Magazine, April/May. Christakis, D. A., F. J. Zimmerman, D. L. DiGiuseppe, and C. A. McCarty. 2004. Early television exposure and subsequent attentional problems in children. Pediatrics 113: 708–713. Hinshaw, S. P., and R. M. Scheffler. 2014. The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Medication, Money, and Today’s Push for Performance. New York: Oxford University Press. Mischel, W, O Ayduk, M Berman, BJ Casey, I Gotlib, J Jonides, E Kross, T Teslovich, N Wilson, V Zayas, and Y Shoda, 2010, ‘Willpower’ over the life span: decomposing self-regulation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosicence online, 2010. Moffitt, T. E., L. Arseneault, D. Belsky, N. Dickson, R. J. Hancox, H. Harrington, et al. 2011. A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth, and public safety. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108: 2693–2698. Swing, E. L., D. A. Gentile, C. A. Anderson, and D. A. Walsh. 2010. Television and video game exposure and the development of attention problems. Pediatrics 126: 214–221.

About Mark Bertin, MD Dr. Bertin is a developmental pediatrician and author of Mindful Parenting for ADHD and The Family ADHD Solution, which integrate mindfulness into the rest of evidence-based ADHD care. An Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College, he serves on the faculty of the Windward Teacher Training Institute and on advisory boards for both Common Sense Media and Reach Out and Read. His blog is available through Huffington Post, and Psychology Today. For more information, visit his website at www.



Fall 2016 The Beacon

How Children Learn To Read By Maria Konnikova

This article was first published by The New Yorker on February 11, 2015; © Condé Nast Editor’s Note: Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD, presented “The New Neuroscience of Dyslexia” as the guest lecturer at the Spring 2016 Robert J. Schwartz Memorial Lecture at The Windward School’s Red Oak Campus. This article discusses the importance of paying attention to executive function.


hy is it easy for some people to learn to read, and difficult for others? It’s a tough question with a long history. We know that it’s not just about raw intelligence, nor is it wholly about repetition and dogged persistence. We also know that there are some conditions that, effort aside, can hold a child back. Socioeconomic status, for instance, has been reliably linked to reading achievement. And, regardless of background, children with lower general verbal ability and those who have difficulty with phonetic processing seem to struggle. But what underlies those differences? How do we learn to translate abstract symbols into meaningful sounds in the first place, and why are some children better at it than others? This is the mystery that has animated the work of Fumiko Hoeft, a cognitive neuroscientist and psychiatrist currently at the University of California, San Francisco. “You know where the color of your eyes came from, your facial features, your hair, your height. Maybe even your personality—I’m stubborn like mom, sloppy like dad,” Hoeft says. “But what we’re trying to do is find out, by looking at brain networks and accounting for everything in the environment, is where your reading ability originates.” This fall, Hoeft and her colleagues at U.C.S.F. published the results of a three-year longitudinal study looking at the basic neuroscience of reading development. Between 2008 and 2009, Hoeft recruited a group of five- and six-year-old children. Some came from backgrounds predictive of reading difficulty. Others seemed to have no obvious risk factors. In addition to undergoing a brain scan, the children were tested for general cognitive ability, as well as a host of other factors, including how well they could follow instructions and how coherently they could express themselves. Each parent was also surveyed, and each child’s home life, carefully analyzed: How did the child spend her time at home? Was she read to frequently? How much time did she spend watching television? Three years later, each child’s brain was scanned again, and the children were tested on a number of reading and phonological tests. When Hoeft took into account all of the explanatory factors that had been linked to reading difficulty in the past—genetic risk, environmental factors, pre-literate language ability, and over-all cognitive capacity—she found that only one thing consistently predicted how well a child would learn to read. That was the growth of white matter in one specific area of the brain, the left temporoparietal region. The amount of white matter that a child arrived with in kindergarten didn’t make a difference. But the change in volume between kindergarten and third grade did.

What is white matter? You can think of it as a sort of neural highway in the brain—roads that connect the various parts of the cortex and the brain surface. Information, in the form of electrical signals, runs across the white matter, allowing for communication between the different parts of the brain: you see something, you give it meaning, you interpret that meaning. Hoeft saw an increase in the volume of pathways in the left temporoparietal, which is central in phonological processing, speech, and reading. Or, as Hoeft puts it, “it’s where you do the tedious work of linking sounds and letters and how they correspond.” Her results suggested that, if the increase in white matter doesn’t occur at the critical time, children will have a hard time figuring out how to look at letters and then turn them into words that have meaning. Hoeft’s discovery builds on previous research that she conducted on dyslexia. In 2011, she found that, while no behavioral measure could predict which dyslexic children would improve their reading skills, greater neural activation in the right prefrontal cortex along with the distribution of white matter in the brain could, with seventy-two-per-cent accuracy, offer such a prediction. If she looked at over-all brain activation while the children performed an initial phonological task, the predictive power rose to more than ninety per cent. Over-all intelligence and I.Q. didn’t matter; what was key was a very specific organizational pattern within your brain. The group’s new findings go a step further. They don’t just show that white matter is important. They point to a crucial stage where the development of white matter is central to reading ability. And the white-matter development, Hoeft believes, is surely a function of both nature and nurture. “Our findings could be interpreted as meaning that there’s still genetic influence,” Hoeft says, noting that preëxisting structural differences in the brain may indeed influence future white-matter development. But, she adds, “it’s also likely that the dorsal white-matter development is representing the environment the kids are exposed to between kindergarten and third grade. The home environment, the school environment, the kind of reading instruction they’re getting.” She likens it to the Dr. Seuss story of Horton and the egg. Horton sits on an egg that isn’t his own, and, because of his dedication, the creature that eventually hatches looks half like his mother, and half like the elephant. In this particular case, Hoeft and her colleagues can’t yet separate cause and effect: Were certain children predisposed to develop strong white-matter pathways that then helped them to learn to read, or was superior

Fall 2016 The Beacon

instruction and a rich environment prompting the building of those pathways? Hoeft’s goal isn’t just to understand the neuroscience of how children read. Neuroscience is the tool to figure out a much broader question: How should early reading education work? In another study, which has just been submitted for publication, Hoeft and her colleagues try to turn their understanding of reading ability toward helping to identify the most effective teaching methods that could help develop it. Typically, children follow a very specific path toward reading. First, there is the fundamental phonological processing—the awareness of sounds themselves. This awareness builds into phonics, or the ability to decode a sound to match a letter. And those, finally, merge into full, automatic reading comprehension. Some children, however, don’t follow that path. In some cases, children who have problems with basic phonological awareness nonetheless master phonic decoding. There are also children who have problems with the decoding, yet their reading comprehension is high. “We want to use these surprising cases to understand what allows people to be resilient,” Hoeft says.

could be key to figuring out how to improve reading education more broadly. These stealth dyslexics have reading problems but are able to develop high comprehension all the same. Hoeft’s group, she told me, has found that stealth dyslexics display a unique dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. That’s the part of the brain that is responsible, among other things, for executive function and self-control. In stealth dyslexics, it seems to be particularly well-developed. That may be partly genetic, but, Hoeft says, it may also point to a particular educational experience: “If it’s superior executive function that is helping some kids develop despite genetic predisposition to the contrary, that is really good news, because that is something we do well— we know how to train executive function.” There are multiple programs in place and multiple teaching methods, tested over the years, that help children develop self-regulation ability: for example, the KIPP schools that are using Walter Mischel’s self-control research to teach children to delay gratification.

What Hoeft’s studies demonstrate is that no matter a kid’s starting point in kindergarten, reading development also depends to a great extent on the next three years—and that those three years can be used to teach something that Hoeft now knows to She’s studied, in particular, a concept known as stealth be tied to overcoming reading difficulty. “That might mean that, dyslexia: people who have all of the makings of dyslexia or other in the earliest stages, we need to pay attention to that executive reading problems, but end up overcoming them and becoming function,” she says. “We need to start not just giving flashcards, superior readers. Hoeft may even be one of them: she suspects letters, and sounds the way we now do, but, especially if we that she suffers from undiagnosed dyslexia. As a child in Japan, know someone might be a problem reader, look at these other she had a difficulty with phonological processing very similar to that experienced by dyslexics—but, at the time, the diagnosis did skills, at cognitive control and self-regulation.” Being a better reader, in other words, may ultimately involve instruction around not exist there. She struggled through without realizing until graduate school that a possible explanation for her problem existed things other than reading. in scientific literature. Studying stealth dyslexics, Hoeft posits,



Fall 2016 The Beacon

Head Lines

The Debate Over Extended Time By Dr. John J. Russell, Head of School


he rights of students identified as having a learning disability are protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Public Law 94-142. Schools that receive federal funds are required to provide “students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of these students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met.” Under the Section 504 regulations, students with disabilities can be educated in regular classrooms or in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or they can receive special education and related services. These laws have had varying degrees of positive impact on millions of children with disabilities in communities across the country. These somewhat encouraging results stem from improved educational opportunities and the use of a variety of services and accommodations. For students with learning disabilities, the most common accommodation is extended time. While extra time to complete assignments and tests is the most frequent accommodation granted to learning disabled students, it is far from universally accepted, and all too frequently it requires a herculean struggle on the part of parents to secure extra time for their disabled students. Committees on Special Education (CSE) grant an accommodation for extended time only after parents provide thorough and convincing documentation of the need for it. Unfortunately, even when armed with this hard won accommodation, students are frequently denied the extra time they are entitled to receive because some teachers and schools simply ignore the accommodation or just refuse to provide it. When asked to explain their refusal to provide extra time, teachers often cite their belief that to do so would be unfair to the rest of their students. Is this a reasonable stance for an educator to take? At first glance, it would appear that there are common sense arguments that can refute the notion that granting extra time to learning disabled students is unfair to other students. Shaywitz (2003) and others have found that students with language-based learning disabilities, even remediated ones, read more slowly than their non-learning disabled counterparts. When they are

not given extended time to compensate for their slow reading speed, learning disabled students frequently experience disproportionate amounts of stress. Many studies (Quesada, Wiemers & Wolf, 2012; Schwabe & Wolf, 2014) have demonstrated that acute stress impairs memory retrieval, and performance on exams and tests is directly affected by memory retrieval. Since learning disabled students are twice penalized – they read slower and their memory is compromised by the stress that they experience when not given adequate time – it stands to reason that they should be granted extra time as an accommodation just as other disabilities are granted accommodations in order to “level the playing field.” Students with vision problems are permitted to wear glasses so that they can see as well as non-visually impaired students, and no one would contemplate removing their glasses because it gave them an “unfair advantage.” In reality, however, the debate about providing extended time for learning disabled students is far more complex than this simple analogy implies. In a small study conducted at the University of California, Runyan (1991) found that when university students identified with learning disabilities were given a reading comprehension test under timed and untimed conditions, they performed significantly better when the test was untimed. She also found that so-called “normally” achieving students did not perform significantly better with extra time. Although there is limited ability to generalize from this study due to its small sample size, these findings are consistent with the Maximum Potential Thesis (MPT). According to this theory, only students with learning disabilities benefit from extra time on examinations. MPT claims that non-learning disabled students perform at their maximum potential under timed conditions, and their performance will not significantly improve with extra time. MPT has been interpreted as refuting the argument that providing extra time to learning disabled students is unfair to other students; however, a close examination of the research that forms the basis of MPT reveals limited support for it. Zuriff (2010) conducted an analysis of five studies that directly test MPT and found only weak support for it. He also

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found problems with the methodology employed in several of the studies that further weakened the validity of the theory. In a meta-analysis of a number of similar studies, Gregg and Nelson (2010) found that the results raised additional questions about the practice of granting additional time solely to learning disabled students and stressed the need for further research. More recently, Cahan, Nirel and Alkoby (2016) conducted a reanalysis of 11 previous experimental studies. They found that non-learning disabled students benefited to roughly the same extent as learning disabled students when provided with extra time. These results led them to question the fairness of granting extra time only to learning disabled students. In order to evaluate the validity of the arguments surrounding this debate, it is essential to first examine the assessments that are used to measure student achievement. At the most basic level, there are two types of tests: speed and power. Speed tests are ones in which the questions are so easy that given enough time the average person would get all the answers correct; however, the time limits imposed for these tests do not allow large numbers of examinees to fully consider all test items (Gullicksen, 1950). Performance is thus measured by how many questions are answered in the limited time specified. Power tests, on the other hand, measure the accuracy of the test takers’ responses to questions of varying difficulty. By definition, speed of performance is not being measured by “power” standardized tests or examinations. Therefore, such tests should be untimed (Lu & Sireci, 2007). Although time is not a relevant factor for power tests, for practical reasons such as ease of administration, the time allocated on such tests is typically limited. The imposition of time limits for power tests may negatively affect scores of all or some of the test-takers, compromising the validity of the resulting scores. Makers of standardized tests attempt to strike a balance between the realities of administering tests in school settings and the diminished validity resulting from setting arbitrary time limits by using “suggested” times instead of hard time limits. Further, there are also many assessments that incorporate elements of both power and speed. These reinforce the limited perspective that achievement is not just the knowledge and skill a student

possesses, but also the speed at which the student can demonstrate that knowledge and skill. In comparison to their non-learning disabled peers, learning disabled students who read or process more slowly are at a distinct disadvantage on these assessments. Recognizing this undeniable reality, teachers who want to obtain a true measure of a learning disabled student’s achievement must provide them with extra time. Given the differing results of the research, it is not surprising that offering extended time only to learning disabled students is characterized by some as unfair. While current research provides important insights into this issue, additional scientific studies are necessary before public policy is modified. Until future research warrants otherwise, extra time is an accommodation provided under Public Law 94-142 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and as such should and must be granted to deserving learning disabled students.



Fall 2016 The Beacon

Welcome to Windward Manhattan


n September of 2016, The Windward School opened its Manhattan campus to 205 students, with a total of 795 students at all three campuses.

This state-of-the-art facility, located at 212 East 93rd Street, joins the two White Plains campuses to carry on the School’s mission of educating students with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities. It is also a second location for the worldrenowned Windward Teacher Training Institute.

Facts about Windward Manhattan: The 60,000-square-foot building currently educates 205 students in grades 2-7. Student population will increase for the 2017-2018 school year as Windward Manhattan continues to grow. Windward Manhattan features: • 31 classrooms • 3 science labs • 2 art studios • A music room • A dining hall with outdoor play area • A state-of-the-art library and media center • A technology lab • A middle school regulation-sized gymnasium • A full-service kitchen • Two locker rooms • A lecture hall for the Windward Teacher Training Institute • A conference room • An administrative office suite

Students are ready to learn on their first day of school at Windward Manhattan.

Students in Ms. Kelly’s art class paint fall-themed works of art. View more of The Windward School’s Visual and Performing Arts programs at

Fall 2016 The Beacon

In Ms. Ehrlich’s science class, seventh grade students practice using triple beam balances to find the mass of objects during the Metric Measurement unit.

A student spends time during fifth period to visit the Library and read a book.

Announcing a Second Location for the Windward Teacher Training Institute (WTTI) WTTI invites you to join the professional conversations with educators from around the world by becoming a WTTI participant. While maintaining WTTI headquarters in the Judith C. Hochman Building at The Windward School campus in Westchester, WTTI announces a second location at the new Windward Manhattan building.

While learning is a priority, students use the opportunity to exercise and build community with their classmates after lunch on the terrace outside of the dining hall.

WTTI’s presence in Manhattan provides an opportunity to expand outreach efforts while continuing to affirm WTTI as a world leader in professional development for teachers and educators in allied disciplines, such as speech and language therapy and child and adolescent psychology. WTTI remains committed to its mission: to provide outstanding programs for those wishing to enhance their expertise and knowledge. Visit for courses, workshops, and lectures at both locations.



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Alumni Profile

Lessons learned lead to brighter futures for others

M “

om, it’s hard, but Ms. Frank believes in me,” were words recently echoed to Emma Frank ’10 by the mother of Claire, one of her newest students at a Montessori middle school in Wooster, Ohio. When I heard that, I felt emotionally moved,” recalls Emma. “As a kid that had difficulty learning, I could count on one hand all of the teachers that believed in me.” Claire’s sentiments are ones that Emma knows very well. They were once hers, too. As a child with dyslexia, Emma knew the feeling of being stuck, frustrated and defeated. Now, as a teacher, she understands what it takes to ensure that her students give their best efforts and that she gives her best effort, too.

A former student returns to learn more This past summer, Emma began to prepare for her third year as a teacher. “In my few years of teaching, I’ve noticed that there are so many kids who are facing the same academic challenges that I faced in school. Unfortunately, these students don’t have Windward nearby,” she says. Emma grappled with how to spend her time off during the summer. “I was deciding between going to graduate school or taking a specialized course at the Windward Teacher Training Institute (WTTI). I thought taking the course at WTTI would be more beneficial,” recalls Emma. While many teachers use their summer break to enrich their knowledge, it was special for WTTI to have a former Windward student take a class. “I received the best education at Windward. I felt compelled to enroll and bring the program back to Ohio with me,” she reports.

Before Windward “Emma with her mother, Dori Fromer, in Salta, Argentina, during a visit from her parents. Emma spent time in Argentina to perform research for her final thesis to graduate from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.”

Emma’s dyslexic diagnosis came in second grade. “I had no letter-to-sound relationship. I couldn’t tell you what sounds

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Emma Frank ’10 brings Windward Teacher Training Institute strategies to her Ohio classroom

letters made,” she recalls. “I had a lot of organizational problems. I couldn’t put my ideas in order, and I would get extremely overwhelmed with multi-step instructions.” As a result of her academic challenges, Emma’s behavior in the classroom suffered as well. “I was the student who was trying to seek negative attention or be the class clown. I didn’t want people to notice that I couldn’t read, write, spell, or do math,” she acknowledges. Recently, during a trip home this past summer, she dug up an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) from her elementary school files. “My teacher at the time wrote in the summary section, ‘Emma sees school as a social opportunity and really isn’t here to do work,’ and she was absolutely right,” recalls Emma. “I was really creative in being able to mask my inabilities.” Prior to Windward, Emma believes she was only reading about 15 percent of the words in a book and making the rest of story up herself. One of those instances occurred with her beloved Harry Potter books. “Before Windward, I had read all of the Harry Potter books – or, at least I thought I had read them all. I remember being on a family vacation after Windward and re-reading the fourth book. As I was reading it, I finally realized one of the characters was a giant – I had no recollection of that character when I had originally read the book. After attending Windward, I was finally able to fully understand and enjoy reading books.”

After Windward: A life’s trajectory changed Enjoying reading and developing learning strategies were two of the many accomplishments from her fifth and sixth grade years at Windward between 20022004. “Although I attended Windward for only two years, it was a huge part of my life and changed my life’s trajectory.” Emma also started to be able to see herself as a student, and the momentum of her learning changed, too.

“After Windward, I went back to public school more confident, and I was able to learn more quickly than before,” she recollects. “Windward taught me that there is a process to learning, and you don’t have to get it right away. It’s not just sitting down, opening a book and remembering information immediately. You have to put work into wanting to learn.” Emma’s years at Windward not only helped her succeed, they also gave her the ability to use her skills to help others. “I was born to be a teacher, and I’m very bossy,” she explains. During her high school years, she would tutor students several times a week in a local community center in Mamaroneck. She also expressed her creativity by starting an after-school art program that was free to elementary school children in the area.

A profession becomes a passion During the summer between her freshman and sophomore year in high school, Emma traveled to a rural town in Mexico to volunteer in a classroom and teach with a group of other high school students. “The kids came into the classroom and were so excited to have a real teacher,” she recalls. “I loved the enthusiasm, and I loved being able to teach them the skills they needed.” Helping others learn became a passion and strengthened her desire as a special education teacher. “I always thought I would be a social worker like my parents. I always wanted to work with kids with special needs,” she says.

Past lessons lead to brighter futures for others Emma realizes that her experiences with learning disabilities are not just her own. “The notion of a typical learner is out the window,” she proclaims. “When I notice my students aren’t putting in their best effort, I can tell. Every time they try to get out of doing the work, I recognize the behavior

Emma delivers her thesis To Do Good: an Analysis of Tzedakah as a Multivocal Symbol as it was Performed by La Sociedad de Damas Israelitas de Beneficencia prior to graduating from the College of Wooster in 2014. because I used to do it, too.” After graduating from the College of Wooster and working as a teacher in Ohio for a few years, Emma noticed that there was a real need to help students in her community. “The modern teacher almost has to be a special education teacher. There are so many needs to be met, especially in reading and writing. A one-size-fits-all education is not a reasonable goal. We need to take greater responsibility for how to teach students best. If we aren’t helping our students, it is not their fault. It is ours,” she stresses. As Emma embarks on her third year of teaching, she recognizes the many things she can do for her students that really impact their academic success. She also looks forward to using the resources from the course she took at WTTI. In order to show her student Claire that she believes in her, Emma made sure to include her in discussing her learning strategy. “I met with her one-on-one and told her what our strategy was going to be. I want her to be a participant in her learning,” says Emma. “If she isn’t learning, it’s my fault, not hers. I’m going to give her my best effort.”

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The Windward School Newsletter for Educators and Parents Fall 2016

Dr. John J. Russell Head of School Jonathan Rosenshine Associate Head of School Board of Trustees 2016–17 Thomas E. Flanagan President Michael R. Salzer 1st Vice President Timothy M. Jones 2nd Vice President Mark A. Ellman Treasurer Susan C. Salice Secretary Ellen Bowman Thomas J. Coleman Elizabeth A. Crain George Davison Nicholas Finn Alexander A. Gendzier Mark Goldberg Jeffrey Goldenberg Arthur A. Gosnell Mitchell J. Katz Gregory D. Kennedy Stacy Kuhn Christine LaSala Raul Martinez Janice Meyer Denis J. O’Leary, III Maria Reed Eric Schwartz Lou Switzer Patricia L. Wolff Devon S. Fredericks, Trustee Emerita Editor Heather Pray Director of Publications Design John Greer Graphic Management Partners Visit The Windward School website:

WINDWARD TEACHER TRAINING INSTITUTE Be Informed. Be Inspired. Transform Lives.

Windward Teacher Training Institute (WTTI), a division of The Windward School, provides professional development based on scientifically validated research in child development, learning theory and pedagogy. The Institute offers national certification for Teaching and Instructor of Teaching levels in Multisensory Structured Language Education. More than 35 classes are offered throughout the year in White Plains and Manhattan. WTTI courses now available via live video streaming For further information: or call (914) 949-6968, ext. 1270 WindwardTTI Facebook

The Windward School - The Beacon - Fall 2016  

The Beacon is The Windward School's newsletter for educators and parents. This issue features Dr. Mark Bertin, Dr. John J. Russell, and othe...

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