Returning to teach at Windward as a Westchester Lower School assistant teacher has been fascinating for Lizza Chapey, allowing her the opportunity to "see behind the curtain." For example, she learned to track her reading with her finger or pen at Windward. In her language arts classes now, with her mentor teacher Nora Byrne, Lizza encourages the students to do the same. “I tell them I still do it, and it is one of the countless tools that I use to this day. Without these strategies, school and jobs later in life would have been a struggle.”
Before Windward, Lizza actually did not fully comprehend how behind academically she was. She remembers being in her previous school and not being able to keep up, because her teachers were going too fast, but she thought she was managing the work. Her parents, though, could see that Lizza needed support with reading, and they learned through friends that The Windward School was the best place to remediate her learning disabilities.
What stands out most to Lizza about her time at Windward were her teachers, who not only taught her important academic skills, like how to make sure her introductions and conclusions for her essays matched, but also made school enjoyable. “When I was walking in the hallway on the first day of new faculty and staff orientation at Windward, I saw someone that I thought I knew. She walked up to me, and she said, ‘It’s you!’ and I had the biggest hug from Ms. Mahoney. She was my fifth-grade homeroom teacher, and her endless energy and quirky personality made coming to school a happy experience.”
Lizza completed the Windward program and outplaced after sixth grade. She spent the next six years at School of the Holy Child before graduating in 2013. During her senior year of high school, her parents had a conversation with her about taking a gap year before going to college. Lizza was surprised, because she thought she was ready, but her parents were strong proponents of her gaining more life experience first. She lived in Latin America for a year, without knowing how to speak Spanish. She took Spanish language classes, taught English, and lived with a family who only spoke Spanish. After a year, Lizza returned to the States and attended Villanova University, where she earned a bachelor’s in economics.
Lizza moved to New York City and began a job in data analytics at a media agency, but it was not for her. “I had a quantitative major, so I found a quantitative job because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do,” said Lizza. “But I always knew that one day I wanted to be a teacher, so I thought why wait? I’m going to pursue what I like to do.”
After leaving her data analytics position, Lizza began working as an after-school assistant at Rye Country Day School. On her way to work every day, she started listening to a new podcast she had found called READ, hosted by Danielle Scorrano of The Windward Institute. “I listened to every episode of READ, and it made me want to learn more about how to support children who are having learning problems. It brought me back to Windward and showed me the direction of the type of learning I was interested in.”
A few months later, Lizza began her first full year in the classroom at Windward, and the Windward Teacher Training Program has been instrumental in filling in her understanding of teaching students with language-based learning disabilities.
"To me, teaching is like trying to figure out the puzzle piece of how to get a concept to click for a student."
“I have always loved trying to solve jigsaw puzzles, and, to me, teaching is like trying to figure out the puzzle piece of how to get a concept to click for a student,” said Lizza. “We always have to listen to the student in front of us, adjust to their needs, and guide them there. I love doing that, and I’m grateful that I’m learning how to do all of these things at Windward.”