September 2022 Faculty Highlight: Alexis Pochna

Meet Alexis Pochna, Head of Westchester Lower School at The Windward School and recently appointed Director of The Windward Institute.

1. Tell us more about your role as the new Director of The Windward Institute.

This new position was created to build on the current work of The Windward Institute (WI) and take the Institute’s work to the next level. With the ambitious and urgent mission of increasing childhood literacy rates by disrupting the educational status quo, there is no stone that cannot be turned on the Institute’s path. My goal as the Director of The Windward Institute is to strengthen existing programs and partnerships while forging new ones. The ultimate goals are to:

  • identify the ways in which The Institute can increase childhood literacy through professional development and training in The Windward School’s methodologies,
  • prioritize strategic partnerships that will have the most meaningful impact on children’s lives, and
  • expand knowledge about the science of reading and the potential of its societal impact to every outpost possible.

2. In addition to your leadership at The WI, you are the Campus Head of Windward’s Westchester Lower School. How does your experience as a school administrator translate to this new role?

Each role informs the other, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have a transition year where I am wearing both “hats.” As the Head of Westchester Lower School, I am actively involved in the daily operations of school life and have first-hand knowledge of the academic experience of our students, the types of supports that teachers find the most beneficial, and the information that families need as active participants in their children’s educational journeys.

As the Director of The Windward Institute, I am serving the same constituent groups through different mechanisms. How can we reach more children with the proven methodologies of The Windward School? How can we provide teachers and other educational professionals with the tools they need to raise the learning gains of the children in their care to new levels? How can we empower parents and other stakeholders to become advocates not only for their own children, but for the learning needs of all children?

After beginning my role as the Director of the Windward institute I have come to realize how essential my administrative experience is to the role. Positive and informed change comes by building actionable connections between theory and practice, which are grounded in the realities of existing logistics and infrastructure at the classroom and school level.

I am excited to share my expertise with the talented and dedicated team of The Windward institute to move their essential work forward.   

3. Tell us about your professional background prior to your role as the Director of The Windward Institute.

As I begin my first year as the Director of The Windward Institute, I am simultaneously entering my eighth year as Head of Westchester Lower School. Most recently in this role, I have overseen the move to The Windward School’s new state of the art Westchester Lower School campus, and, along with my tireless and devoted colleagues, managed day-to-day school operations during the unchartered waters of the COVID pandemic.

In my position, I observe the transformative impact of a Windward education each and every day, and I look forward to expanding The Windward School's reputation and expertise with the work of the Institute. In addition to my current positions, I have served in a variety of school building, curriculum, and staff developer leadership roles. As every educator knows, the heart of the work takes place in the classroom, however, and I will forever identify as a teacher first and foremost. The decade that I spent working directly with students in the classroom has and continues to inform all the work that I have done since. It is ultimately the reason that I aspired to my new role as Director of The Windward Institute.

Education has a profound and indelible impact on a child’s life, and reading is the foundation on which a child’s educational experience is built. At Windward, we know what it takes to move learning forward for children, and we are hopeful that by sharing our expertise, we can affect positive change for growing communities of learners.

4. As The Windward Institute continues to expand, what can constituents who engage with The WI anticipate over the next year?

The WI is committed to disrupting the educational status quo to improve reading outcomes for children close to home and across the globe. The core pillars of this work include providing high quality professional development, expanding outreach efforts, and strengthening relationships in order to build more informed communities.

The Windward Institute is focused on enhancing professional development opportunities by leveraging technology and research-based strategies to expand offerings, vary engagement modalities, and facilitate networks of empowered learners.  In addition to strengthening existing partnerships in service of increased childhood literacy rates, the WI looks forward to establishing new relationships with educational institutions, community organizations, prominent leaders in the field of research and education, and literacy advocates and policymakers.

The Windward institute is committed to providing a range of accessible resources to The Windward School and broader educational community on topics that include the science of reading, structured literacy, and child and language development. In the text-dependent world in which we live, receiving an effective reading education should be an irrefutable standard guiding curriculum and policy efforts nationwide.