Head of School Ms. Jesse Rizzo's experience in educational institutions around New York City—and around the world—makes her the ideal leader of our dynamic school community on Manhattan's Upper West Side at BASIS Independent Manhattan.
Her love of education extends beyond playing the role of teacher or administrator; she, herself, has a long-held commitment to learning and growing her skills as an educator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Siena College as well as three Master's degrees from Fordham University in Education and Administration.
Ms. Rizzo, a native New Yorker, joins our program from BASIS Independent Brooklyn where she acted as Director of Academic Programs. During her tenure with BASIS Independent Brooklyn, she spearheaded the initiative for student participation in the International Student Assessment exam, a test of critical and creative thinking in math, reading, and writing—on which students beat national average scores by a few dozen points.
Prior to her time with BASIS Curriculum Schools, she was part of the founding team of a school in Queens, as a grades K, 5, and 6 teacher, and as instructional coach for grades K–7. Early in her career, Ms. Rizzo was identified as a leader; she was named an Emerging Leaders Fellow with the NYC Charter School Center, where she built tools for supporting school culture, better data assessment, and led workshops for faculty on teacher evaluation and professional development planning. In many ways, her role as Head of School at BASIS Independent Manhattan is much like a homecoming—it was at a school on the Upper West Side where Ms. Rizzo completed her student teaching in grades K and 2.
Prior to, and simultaneous with her work in education in New York City, Ms. Rizzo visited the far reaches of the world to satisfy her deep curiosity on educational practices in different cultures from early childhood through to high school.
Through the prestigious World Teach Harvard University program she journeyed to South Africa, where she spearheaded a narrative therapy program for students with HIV, AIDS, and malaria, where students would use writing to think about their own experiences and read about their classmates' experiences. Most recently, in Ubud, Bali, she spent 3 months as an English Immersion instructor. Prior, as a part of the IVHQ Program, she was a volunteer teacher in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her first foray into international education was as a Teaching Intern in Florence, Italy for late elementary and middle school students.
There are parallels between Ms. Rizzo's insatiable curiosity with the global state of education and the mission of our program. In her own words, Ms. Rizzo shares, "what education looks like, seeing how kids approach problem solving, is so different based on location and culture. From math teaching to collaboration, teaching kids how to read and write—it is amazing to be able to see what kids do across the globe and compare it to my own experiences as a student, and as an educator. I have been lucky enough to take the teaching 'gems' from across the world and implement them in my practice, the concept of which is very much a part of the BASIS Curriculum Schools educational philosophy."
From BASIS Curriculum Schools CEO Peter Bezanson's perspective, "Ms. Rizzo is an educator who is always questioning and learning, and seeks to inspire students to think critically about what they learn, and not accept everything at face value. She is one of the most impressive leaders in the BASIS Curriculum Schools network, and I am excited to bring top talent to our newest school."
Ms. Rizzo values that at BASIS Curriculum Schools, "students walk away with more questions than answers which is at the heart of what it means to be a scholar and a student. The conversation in our school doesn't stop at the door; students carry their lessons with them, playing off the incredible passion of their teachers."
Her goals for BASIS Independent Manhattan are to carry out the excellence of the BASIS Curriculum Schools tradition and its deep focus on student learning, to develop strong thinkers who are unafraid to speak their mind, and to encourage teachers and students daily to never settle for the status quo.