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Alanna Navitski


Ghent, NY

Recorded by

Nicolette Lodico

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This is Alanna's sixth interview as part of the Education Initiatives Project, recorded via Zoom on February 10, 2020. She begins by acknowledging the significant evolution of and changes to work due to the pandemic. Up until 2020, she was the director of the Catskill Wheelhouse Preschool, an independent progressive school for young children. On reopening this school year, she became co-director of the school, which has expanded on its programs to serve elementary-aged students. She recently began teaching a class to replace a vacancy created when another teacher moved on to a new position. She acknowledged her roles as mom of a seven-year old daughter and talked about her daughter's experience during the pandemic--that she's never had a "normal" school year.  Alanna described how her daughter coped during the early days of the pandemic--how she missed the social and play aspects of her school experience. The educational model at Catskill Wheelhouse--which does not place priority focus on learning loss and where children "are supposed to be" (e.g., with skills like reading and math)--informed how she supported her daughter during the pandemic, allowing her to engage with others and the world in ways that helped her learn and thrive without the stress of focusing on state standards. Alanna described how parents of her students are very concerned with deficits in social development and ability. She's cannot gauge how intensely this has impacted her students because young children already have a large range of social abilities and responses to preschool environments. She believes that the changes children have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic (in person school, home school, changes in schools, moving to new homes) have caused disruption, generally.

She talked about current polarization in society and how topics like masking and vaccines are flashpoints for parents and how frustrating it is to build necessary relationships and have consensus. Bridging these divides feels very difficult to her right now. She also described how she talks to her students about evaluating sources of information and evidence. She is thinking a lot about technology and social media--how/if to use these responsibility with young students. Alanna also talked about remote education, generally, and questioned its level of effectiveness, especially for young children. She described her core values for being an educator: supporting social and emotional connections, learning through creating, engaging with the world, helping kids be "active agents for change in their worlds." Alanna is not hopeful that education will be reimagined as a result of the pandemic, but admits that now is not a good time to rethink this because of the sense that "everybody is mad about everything." She hopes that we will confront (not ignore) the impact of the pandemic on children, at least at the local, classroom level. And she is grateful that kids are back in the classroom.

Interviewer Bio:

Nicolette Lodico is an archivist and knowledge manager who specializes in helping people and organizations—particularly those whose work supports the public good—establish sustainable practices for managing both what they create and what they know so they can make informed decisions, be transparent, and minimize risk. She helps organizations tell the story about their work, to reflect on and learn from past work and share that knowledge with those who will benefit, and to provide opportunities for future researchers and historians to examine and evaluate this work. Currently, she is the director of global information and knowledge management at the Ford Foundation where she is overseeing a comprehensive, multiyear oral history project to gather the reflections of key former staff. She also is the former president and emeritus board member of the Technology Association of Grantmakers, a non-profit organization that cultivates the strategic and equitable use of technology to advance philanthropy. She earned her M.L.S. from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

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