Compiled by Nicole Tomassi, Marketing & Conference Manager
This year has been a mix of challenges and opportunities, but because of our culture of flexibility, our team successfully pivoted to the work-from-home model without interruption to our clients.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this year brought a promising change to the industry, as publishers and ed tech companies are increasingly seeking to make their products more inclusive and culturally responsive. For the last several years, Westchester has been working to affect change within our one organization and within the industry. We are proud to draw upon that experience and to work as partners with many leading educational materials providers, providing reviews and revisions to their materials in order to make those materials more inclusive of all learners.
That work, as well as our experience in social-emotional learning and bilingual education, continues to infuse and influence the work our content and product teams do for our clients, embedding these principles into all of our subject area content. We look forward to 2021 and to finding new and more efficient ways to support students and teachers.
– Kevin J. Gray, President and Chief Content Officer
2020… What a year! We are so proud of the Westchester Education Services team and all of the amazing work that they have done this year. We have created intriguing and culturally inclusive materials in the areas of Social Studies and English/Language Arts, we have built amazing new Math programs for Texas and Florida, and we even worked on being part of the team to develop cutting-edge materials for the new national high school Science curriculum!
We have greatly expanded our offerings in English Language Teaching, Social-Emotional Learning, and Culturally Responsive Education to meet the ever-changing needs of our clients. We have done work for countries all over the world, from the UK and Canada, to China, and even Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. And all of this great work was done in the middle of a pandemic that has greatly changed how all of us work and play.
The team and I look forward to 2021 and to helping our clients, and their programs, be the best that they can be!
– Dave Bailis, Senior Director of Operations
Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives have grown by leaps and bounds this year. We started off the year with the creation of our DEI Committee, which meets roughly every two weeks, focusing on the internal development of inclusionary practices, as well as staff training. After several years of efforts to change our recruiting process, we surveyed our freelance talent pool to get a baseline of the diversity of identity and life experience present, for the dual purpose of setting diversity goals as well as identifying remaining gaps in representation.
The largest area of growth, however, has been in the development of our Culturally Responsive Education reviews of curricula. We refined our rubric (now in its second iteration) and our review process, increased recruitment of our review team, and brought on Samantha Tucker, to serve as our CRE Review lead. We’ve conducted several thin slice reviews and are in the middle of reviews of full programs.
To the credit of our customers, we’ve found that the companies who are coming to us for reviews to be highly receptive to the feedback our review team has provided and dedicated to making the changes necessary to impact the students who receive these materials.
– Nilofer Ali, Resources Manager and DEI Committee Lead
A project that stands out in a particular way for me this year is one where we created Spanish-language content in the form of insightful articles for Spanish-speaking children who live in the United States. The articles are on a variety of themes and subjects ranging from Latin American history to the Art and Sciences. The goal is to inform and educate students while providing language tools to assist them in developing their native or second-language Spanish skills. We are not strangers to creating this type of content and give 100% to creating content that is enriching, culturally respectful, and of the highest quality.
What is exciting is that we collaborate with content development teams who are native Spanish-speaking writers, editors, and project managers from Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Spain, and the United States. This lends a particularly unique and authentic voice to the content which really directly speaks to the students’ needs and interests. Furthermore, the project’s development teams are encouraged to use Spanish as their language of discourse and work. For me, this is an example of how Westchester Education Services demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
– Walter Henderson, Jr., Senior Supervising Editor, ELT
My 2020 highlight was leading an expansive SEL (social-emotional learning) project that involved writing and producing passages, interactive lessons, games, videos, and self-assessment activities to help children approach SEL from a variety of interesting angles. It was rewarding to dive deeper into a subject I feel is especially relevant to children right now, and to help ensure the quality of instruction while doing so. The project gave me opportunities to collaborate with experts and further explore a subject I’ve been very interested in. I look forward to continuing the SEL journey in 2021.
– Megan Overman, Senior Editor
I was fortunate to work with a cross-functional team within Westchester to think about, and plan for, an innovative Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) program. We discussed many phenomenal topics in an effort to engage students with science practice and engineering solutions while also teaching fundamental core concepts. With Kevin Gray and David Bailis, we developed an authentic conceptual storyline for the program.
– Tim Yetzina, Senior Supervising Editor, STEM
2020 has been a challenging, but exciting year for us. The global pandemic has presented both personal and professional challenges, but there have been some exciting things that are worth highlighting:We’ve made a successful and practically seamless transition to a work from home model while we ride out the COVID19 storm. We’ve mastered many new tools and learned new ways to collaborate, but we are looking forward to the day where we can work together in person again.
We continued to grow and expand our resources and skillsets both internally and externally. One of the major goals for my team this year was to improve our ability to handle more creatively challenging projects, and I am so pleased to see a great improvement in that arena.
Looking back at the thousands (even tens of thousands) of pages we’ve produced up to this point fills me with a great deal of pride and I’m continually amazed at what our team can accomplish. We’ve seen quite a bit of repeat business this year as a result of the efforts we put in during our first couple of years together, and I’m looking forward to building on the customer relationships we’ve established, and I can’t wait to see what we can do next!
– Chris Herrfurth, Production Manager
The highlight for me this year was seeing how everyone came together in 2020 to navigate a new terrain in work-from-home collaboration. Colleagues and clients were champs!
I had the pleasure of managing projects that included writing/design/ production of fun and visually stunning Infographics, ELA Worksheets for young learners, and being a key partner in bringing a new SEL program to market.
I am grateful to be a part of this incredibly talented Westchester Education Services team.
– Rosemary Dannin, Project Manager
What really made an impression on me this year was the agile way that publishers and ed tech providers have explored and implemented innovative solutions to meet the urgent needs of students in these difficult times. I’ve seen everything from the re-imagining and retooling of existing products and delivery modalities to the development of entirely new ways to help students learn in a changing world. It’s been exciting for our team to have been a part of this – helping publishers help kids.
– Tim Cross, Business Development Manager
During challenging times, you will often see who rises up to meet the circumstances, and this year was proof of that for me. I’ve always been impressed with the commitment to excellence that members of the Westchester team show our clients, and to see how they continued to perform at this high level while working in separate spaces from each other only deepened my respect and admiration.Though the pandemic made half my job title impossible to carry out this year, it did provide a unique opportunity to connect with other members of the education ecosphere to have important discussions. I was honored to be part of the team that provided a webinar forum where experts could engage with our growing audience about important topics including supporting English language learners, diversity, equity, and inclusion, social-emotional learning, and cultural responsiveness in teaching and learning materials. Next year, I look forward to exploring all the ways we can continue the dialogue, generate increased awareness, and advance understanding of these important subjects, among others.
– Nicole Tomassi, Marketing and Conference Manager
It’s never too early to put together a comprehensive project plan. Contact us to have a conversation about the various ways our team can help you achieve your product development goals.