Director of Admissions
It is not often that you meet someone who has worked for 38 years in the same school where she started her teaching career. It is even rarer that the same person has viewed that workplace, in this case, The Windward School, through the lenses of so many of its constituents – new teacher, senior faculty member, administrator, and parent.
This is Beth Foltman. For the past three years, Beth Foltman and Maureen Sweeney have been Co-Directors of Admissions for The Windward School. With Ms. Sweeney’s recent retirement, Ms. Foltman will solely lead as Director of Admissions.
In the fall of 1980, fresh from Lesley University in Massachusetts with a degree in special education, Ms. Foltman brought her lifelong desire to be a teacher to The Windward School. She began her time at Windward as an assistant teacher while pursuing a master’s degree in teaching at Manhattanville College.
The Windward School of the early 1980s was very different from the one you know of today. At the time Ms. Foltman joined the School, 70 students in the whole School occupied the hallways of 13 Windward Avenue, where the Westchester Lower School exists today. To put that into perspective, 907 students will be enrolled for the 2018-19 school year.
While the School received its certification by the New York State Board of Regents as a school for learning-disabled children in 1976, it was not until 1988 under the leadership of Dr. Judith C. Hochman that Windward narrowed its focus to remediating language-based learning disabilities only.
When Ms. Foltman first came on board, The Windward School was a small, struggling school that "you never knew if it was going to open from year to year. It was really teetering on the edge. When Dr. Hochman took over, that’s when you saw the mission really tighten and focus on children with language-based learning disabilities," explained Ms. Foltman. "In addition to that, you really saw the Windward academic program develop."
After a few years as an assistant teacher, Ms. Foltman led her first homeroom of third graders. Later, when her family started to grow, an opportunity became available in the science department. “There had been several science teachers here, but they were never Windward-trained teachers in that they hadn’t had a homeroom and taught reading,” she explained. Science teaching positions then were part-time, and Ms. Foltman jumped at the opportunity since her family had grown to include three young children.
Ms. Foltman holds fond memories of being a science teacher during this part of Windward’s history. Her experience differed greatly from that of the science teachers today who have seven science labs across all three campuses. “It was quite a challenge,” she reminisced. “I was hauling buckets of water around the School. I didn’t have a room to store everything in; I just had a locker in the copy room to store supplies.”
Ms. Foltman’s Lower School science classrooms would receive an upgrade a few years later when the Westchester Middle School moved to the 40 West Red Oak Lane campus. The Lower School had finally gained its first official science lab.
“Moving over to Red Oak was an exciting time," noted Ms. Foltman. "We finally had a real science lab to teach in! This expansion also allowed us to expand the science program.” With Sandy Schwarz, Director of the Windward Teacher Training Institute, Ms. Foltman developed a new Lower School science curriculum tailored to Windward's methodology.
With the School’s academic program being delivered consistently and effectively under the tutelage of Dr. Hochman and Ms. Sweeney, the School’s reputation grew stronger, and its student population grew.
In 2004, Ms. Foltman became Assistant Division Head for the Lower School. During that same year, the last high school class graduated, and the fifth graders moved over to the Red Oak Lane campus to become part of the Middle School. In 2006, when Dr. Russell became Head of School, the total student population for both campuses was 484. Windward had come a long way in two decades, and it still had room to grow.
Ms. Foltman’s appointment as Assistant Director of Admissions occurred during the 2011-12 school year. After staying on for one more year as a Westchester Lower School Science Teacher, the nature of the position called for Ms. Foltman to leave the classroom behind. Finally, in 2015, she was named Co-Director of Admissions alongside Ms. Sweeney. “I had always enjoyed the direct contact with the students, and all of my previous positions gave me that opportunity,” she reflected. “However, the testing process for admission is something I really value because it gives me an opportunity to work with kids and understand how a child will fit into The Windward School.
"The best part about being in Admissions, though, is being able to tell a family that they have a seat," said Ms. Foltman. "When a child has really struggled in school and is feeling defeated, telling a family 'We have a place for you' is a great feeling."
When a child has really struggled in school and is feeling defeated, telling a family 'We have a place for you' is a great feeling."
As a parent of a Windward student as well, Ms. Foltman can empathize with the experience of those families. "It's a tough seat to be in because you're terrified. You know this is the right place for your child, but you don't know if you will get a place. Once you do, you're washed with relief. As a parent of a hardcore dyslexic daughter, I know she never would have learned how to read unless she came here. So I am forever grateful."
As Windward has grown over the years, Ms. Foltman believes that the School's commitment to its mission and to maintaining a strong community spirit have remained the same.
"Everyone is committed to trying to save our students," she said. "Our mission is so important because so many were suffering in their schools – getting into trouble, getting lost, and not having the opportunity to reach their potential. But when they arrived at Windward, you could see the change. You knew that the kids were having doors opened to them. I feel so lucky to be a part of an institution that has allowed these students an opportunity to learn to read and write well."
I feel so lucky to be a part of an institution that has allowed these students an opportunity to learn to read and write well.
When not at Windward, Ms. Foltman's outside interests still influence her embrace of the School's mission and approach. Her roots – hailing from Nova Scotia and growing up on the water in Rye – mean she can be found on a sailboat with her husband. Sailing amongst lesser-known Caribbean islands with their iguanas, turtles, and flying fish, she sees lessons to be learned.
"What you learn in sailing is that you have to adjust your sails and sometimes the best path is not always the easy way," said Ms. Foltman. "I think here at Windward we teach our kids to adjust their sails, so their hard work will allow them to reach their final destination."