This article will be featured in the upcoming Winter 2020 edition of the Gaynor Gazette.
Jane Moskowitz is a Head Teacher in the Silver Cluster at Gaynor, but her career path started with psychology and neuroscience rather than education. After experiences working in a pediatric epilepsy lab and at a non-profit, she was able to narrow her focus, finding her way into special education. Her personal passion, rescuing dogs from the island of Aruba, was another serendipitous journey.
We sat down with Jane for the latest installment in our “Five Questions With…” series to learn more about her favorite aspect of being a teacher as well as her non-profit, Cunucu Dog Rescue.
- Have you always worked, or wanted to work in education?
I wouldn’t say that I’ve always wanted to work in education. But I have vivid memories of begging my parents for a chalkboard in third grade. I would always play a teacher with my chalk and chalkboard and make my friends listen to my lessons. But I wasn’t the kid growing up saying “I’m going to be a teacher.”
When I was at Duke University, I studied psychology and neuroscience and always thought that I would be a clinical psychologist. So after graduating in 2012, I worked in a pediatric epilepsy lab, which was really fascinating. But I quickly realized that research can be isolating. And what I liked most about my work there was working with the kids and prepping them for their MRI scans. That’s when I began to question, ‘Do I really want to do five years of a Ph.D. program or do I want to pivot?’ I pivoted to education and I worked for a family foundation in D.C. that worked with public and charter schools. And then I realized that I really wanted to be in the field of education and in the schools with the kids. So eventually my husband and I moved to New York, and I applied to graduate school, and started at Bank Street. At the same time, I started here at Stephen Gaynor School as an assistant teacher.
- What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Something I genuinely think about a lot—and feel most satisfied about is I feel that I have a found a career—it sounds so cheesy but it’s true—but I have found a career where I’m legitimately happy and eager to come to work every day. That feels like an achievement to me.
I feel proud that I work in a career where I feel like I’m effecting real change. There’s never a dull moment and I feel happy to come to work every day. That was not an easy path; I had to make a career change and be in school the same time as I was teaching and it wasn’t easy to get there. But I’ve landed in a career where I can really see myself forever.
- What keeps you coming back to work every day?
How could I not say the kids? Obviously the kids. Every single day I find this work to be fascinating. It’s an endless puzzle that you’re constantly trying to put together. You’re trying to figure out each individual child and their profile as a learner but also who they are as a human and how to connect with them. That to me is such an interesting component of this work. That’s never going to end. You get a different batch of kids every year and it’s a challenge.
- What is one of your favorite moments you have had as a teacher?
I had a project for grad school where I had to draw something but I am a terrible at it. So I mentioned it to my reading class and one of my students went home that night and worked tirelessly on this drawing and brought it back to me the next day. He drew exactly what I wanted which was a representation of disruptive thinking. I presented it to my class at Bank Street. That was really meaningful to me. I feel like I’m the one always trying to help them, and in that moment he was able to use his skills and his talents to help me. That’s definitely one of my favorite moments.
- What are you up to when you’re not at Gaynor?
When I’m not at Gaynor you can find me at home with my husband. I live on the Upper West Side. I grew up here, I am a die-hard Upper West Sider. We have a dog, Josie, who we love more than anything in the entire world. The other thing I do outside of school is volunteer for Cunucu Dog Rescue, which we launched in March 2019, that is sort of our baby at the moment.
My husband and his family have been going to Aruba for 30 years; his grandmother was one of the original travel agents to start bringing tourists there. I’ve been going with them for the last eight or so years.
Every time we visit, we’re acutely aware of the stray dog crisis. But the last time we went we were so moved by it. We had been fostering dogs here in the city for quite some time, and we thought, ‘There is this really bad problem in this place that we love and so many organizations here in New York City, so why don’t we try to help while we can in Aruba?’
We partnered with an incredible organization called the Crijojo Trappers. They’re not a rescue–they’re actually trying to address the root of the problem, which is the lack of spaying and neutering. So they reach out to rescues like us, and other rescues on the island because we can’t save all of the dogs obviously. And they say, ‘Are you interested in helping?’ And we say yes.
It’s a very complicated process to rescue the dogs. We have to find people on the island who are willing to foster them for a limited time, find someone on the island who is interested in bringing them to the vet so they can get clearance to travel, and then we have to find someone who is willing to take them on their flight home from Aruba to New York.
Luckily, there is an existing group called Aruba Flight Volunteers which recruits people who do that. Once I get the puppies onto a flight, I have to call and make the arrangements and so forth. Then my husband and I go and pick them up from the airport.
Since we don’t have a brick and mortar shelter, we have established a small foster network here who are willing to take in puppies, which has been instrumental to us. We facilitate adoption through our Instagram, @cunucudogrescue. People find us and we vet them thoroughly. To date, we’ve done about 25 adoptions.