When Lexa Krawchick came to Windward’s Westchester Middle School, she had been severely struggling with school. “For a long time, I had felt like I was drowning in the public school system,” said Lexa. “I felt like I was stupid and that it was my fault that I wasn’t doing well. Overall, I was falling behind, I was afraid to ask for help, and I didn’t think anyone could help me."
Arriving at Windward revealed to Lexa that school did not have to feel so impossible anymore. She realized that in fact she was not being taught in the way where she could learn best. Lexa learned organizational strategies and note taking skills that helped her absorb material more effectively. The classroom moved at a pace that was manageable, and her teachers were her pillars of support.
“My Windward teachers were what made my experience a positive one,” said Lexa. “My teachers would meet one-on-one to explain concepts to me in ways that I understood, so I finally felt like I was in a comfortable environment that enabled me to learn. Everyone made me feel like I was capable of doing anything, and they were going to get me through.”
Lexa was grateful for Ms. Ralph’s gentle kindness and her open invitation to join her for lunch in her science room every day. She also appreciated Ms. Gay’s tough love that pushed her to be more independent. Mr. Steiker’s attentive warmth made her feel seen, and Ms. Patalano née Carpentieri was a great source of comfort as Lexa navigated transitioning to a new school in eighth grade.
“The Windward staff made such a difference in my life, and they made me want to become a Windward teacher too,” said Lexa. “Because I had such a negative experience in school for so many years, I was motivated to make sure no other student had to go through what I did. When someone came to my future classroom, I wanted to be the person who could offer a comfortable learning space where every student could trust me to see their full potential.” In particular, Lexa was drawn to special education to ensure all learners would receive the accommodations they needed to excel.
Following Windward, Lexa graduated from Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. She enjoyed participating in the program called The LIFE School during her junior and senior years. The project-based program focused on hands-on learning and provided a small community, and Lexa thrived. She then attended Marist College before transferring to Syracuse University to study general and special inclusive education.
“The Syracuse program was absolutely incredible,” said Lexa. “My professors made sure we were prepared to be teachers with class management strategies, different ways to present material, and how to teach content in multiple ways.”
Lexa is continuing to enjoy the learning process of becoming a teacher as a Westchester Lower School assistant teacher and participating in the Windward Teacher Training Program.
“From my student experience, I knew that Windward would never be the type of school to throw you into anything without preparing you for it, so I could only imagine the type of training the teachers received,” said Lexa.
And Lexa’s instincts were spot on. She has found the Windward Teacher Training Program to be purposeful and incredibly supportive. “From my mentor teacher Jillian Peden to the assistant staff developers, everyone is willing to guide me to be the best teacher. All the feedback is constructive because we all want me to become better, and I know I’m in the right place.”
“All the feedback is constructive because we all want me to become better, and I know I’m in the right place.”
As a Windward alumna, Lexa has experienced some déjà vu moments, as she learns why Windward teachers lead their classes in such a particular way. She has also realized during certain lessons that the skills she is now teaching are the same skills that she used regularly in her own academic career after Windward.
“Being able to relate to my students is unique, and I know their struggles of getting used to new ways of learning. But moving forward I hope to emphasize that what I learned at Windward saved me in the long run. Windward gave me the ability to see past my learning disability and feel capable of being a successful adult.”