Three years attending the Westchester Middle School was a life-changing experience for Bianca Rizzo. Before coming to Windward, she fought her parents daily about going to school because she hated her public school experience. But in her first year as a seventh-grade student, Bianca’s perspective drastically changed. “My whole time at Windward really changed the way that I looked at learning, because the class sizes were small, I could keep up with the pace of my classes, and I was able to make friends.”
Bianca also credits her teachers for taking their time to make sure that she really understood the material and for instilling confidence in her that she could accomplish anything. “The Windward teachers I had taught me how to advocate for myself, which carried me through high school and college,” said Bianca. “They made me want to become a teacher too so I could help kids who were struggling in school. I wanted to be that person who could let students know that they could succeed, once they had the right tools and placement.”
For her final years of high school, Bianca attended Eastchester High School. She then pursued her interest in education by earning both a bachelor’s degree in general childhood education and a master’s degree in special childhood education from Manhattan College. Bianca returned to a public school setting and served for six years as both an integrated co-teaching classroom aide and special education teacher leave replacement within the Scarsdale school district. In her role, Bianca supported a small integrated class of both special education and general education students, with students on IEPs ranging from autism to various learning disabilities.
Bianca was seeking to further deepen her specialization within the special education field, and she desired more training. She realized that the Windward Teacher Training Program would offer her exactly what she was looking for, and Bianca returned this past school year to the Windward campuses as a Westchester Lower School assistant teacher.
She supports her mentor teacher, Marissa Krosche, with language arts, math, and social studies classes. She enjoys how she can observe and absorb how Ms. Krosche teaches and what language she uses in her second-grade class. “I have been taking everything in and learning how to teach the students. One of my favorite lessons that I’ve led is a skills activity in language arts.”
Speaking about an expository writing course that all assistant teachers are required to take, Bianca said, “I felt like I was back in middle school! The course was explaining why MPOs [multi-paragraph outlines] are used in the classroom, and it was so interesting to understand the pedagogy behind how my Windward teachers were teaching me as a student. Now I was learning how to teach it myself! It was surreal as an adult to see the mechanics behind the success of Windward’s program.” Bianca also commented how Windward’s methodology is unique when compared to the teaching style that special education instructors follow in public schools.
“It was so interesting to understand the pedagogy behind how my Windward teachers were teaching me as a student. Now I was learning how to teach it myself!”
Many of Bianca’s former teachers and coaches are still at the Westchester Middle School, and she has enjoyed reconnecting. “It was absolutely amazing to see Mr. Eberhard and Ms. Hunt, who were my softball coaches, as well as Ms. Fedele, Ms. Ralph, and Mr. Steiker, who were my teachers, at the new faculty and staff orientation at the start of the school year. Windward changed my whole life, and they were huge reasons why I am a teacher now.”