Amanda Rathbun: The Tradition of Excellent Leadership Continues on at Windward Avenue

Stephanie Huie

Assistant Division Head of Westchester Lower School

Amanda Rathbun, the new Assistant Division Head at Westchester Lower School, took an interesting journey from college to a big city law firm before landing at The Windward School.

She attended The Loomis Chaffee School and graduated from Amherst College. Upon graduation, she considered following in the footsteps of both her father and brother and began working in a law firm. For one year, Ms. Rathbun worked as a paralegal at a large corporate law firm in NYC. She quickly realized law was not her calling.

Instead, she considered teaching, a profession she had contemplated for years. “It was actually a big ‘Told You so’ moment,” she recalls. “My now-husband had always thought I would love teaching and that I shouldn't have gone into law immediately after graduating college.”

Ms. Rathbun decided to leave the Edward Law Firm and sent out applications to independent and charter schools throughout New York City. She was happy to accept an assistant teaching position at The Buckley School in New York City. While teaching at Buckley, Ms. Rathbun attended The Bank Street College of Education, where she achieved a master's in special and general education.

With a new degree in hand, she landed a third-grade teaching position at Saint David’s School in New York City. she taught homeroom, math, reading, writing, and social studies. Ms. Rathbun’s demonstrated leadership skills quickly led to increased responsibilities as a mentor teacher and team leader. To enrich the school’s extracurricular offerings, she founded and supervised The Community Club, an activity focused on helping students in grades 1-4 build connections among their peers and teachers. Over the course of her career, she diversified her experience and polished her skills by working at Horizons at Saint David’s, The West End Day School, and P.S. 138. All of these commitments helped Ms. Rathbun hone her leadership skills and learn more about how the administration of a school operates.

“When you’re a teacher, you become an expert in your classroom,” she says. “You know your students and your program. But there’s a whole other world going on outside the walls of the classroom that helps to keep the school running.”

When she learned of an opening at The Windward School for the Assistant Division Head position at Westchester Lower School, she knew it was the job for her. Ms. Rathbun was aware of Windward’s powerful language arts program because Phyllis Bertin, the lecturer, teacher trainer, school consultant, and Director of Reading at Windward Teacher Training Institute, conducted many workshops for teachers at Saint David’s. “She came to Saint David’s on a regular basis to train teachers in PAF and reading comprehension,” Ms. Rathbun continues. “In my six years at the school, I took many courses with Phyllis. she’s amazing!”

Ms. Rathbun was ecstatic to be offered the position in 2015 (one week after her daughter Willow [who is now nine months old] was born). The Rathbun family decided to uproot from Manhattan. They moved to Westchester in June, and Ms. Rathbun started at Windward the first week of August.

“I love the students,” she says. “I find particular satisfaction in reaching the students who need extra support. That is a true sign that I am teaching.” In addition, Ms. Rathbun enjoys forging relationships with families and working closely with them to support students’ learning and social development.

While she misses being in the classroom, Ms. Rathbun enjoys having the opportunity to know many more students and having them pop into her office to see photos of Willow. She is thrilled when students take a moment to check out the bulletin board outside her office where daily jokes or language games are posted. (Is it “catch up” or “ketchup”?) Students are surprised when Ms. Rathbun calls them by name during lunch or at recess.

“They’ll ask, ‘how do you know my name?’ and I’ll say, ‘Are you kidding me? It’s my job to know your name!’”

As Ms. Rathbun spoke with The Compass, she expressed her gratitude to Jon Rosenshine (Associate Head of School) and Alexis Pochna (Division Head, Westchester Lower School) for their invaluable assistance in helping her learn the “Windward Way” and making her feel welcome.

“I love that Windward has a very clear vision and that it takes that vision very seriously,” she says. “The mission is student-driven. It is ‘if this isn’t proven to be effective, then we aren’t going to waste our time on it.’ The school has such a clear expectation for their students and the instruction they need to learn effectively. It has been really powerful for me to hear parents say that their children are starting to enjoy reading at home and starting to feel like they are being taught how to learn for the first time.

“Faculty and administrators do their work very well here,” she concludes. “As a new administrator, I want to learn as much as I can by doing my best and living up to the Windward standard.”