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The life work of Nancy Edgar Winkler ’77 has provided educational opportunities for people who otherwise wouldn’t have them.

She works for the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) on Long Island, N.Y. BOCES are state entities created to support and supplement local school districts. Eastern Suffolk, New York’s largest, serves 51 school districts in an area of nearly 1,000 square miles. It enrolls more than 4,600 school-age pupils and more than 6,800 adult-education students.

“BOCES offer services that a single district could not provide as efficiently and economically,” Winkler explains. “For the past seven years, I have administered two federally funded Homeless Children and Youth programs, three federally funded Even Start programs, and three district-subscribed Parent-Child Home programs.”

In January, she accepted a new position in the BOCES central office and currently advises the staffers of the Homeless Children and Youth programs, the Even Start programs, and the Parent-Child Home programs. In addition, she works in the Special Education Central Office. The BOCES has more than 1,600 special-education students who cannot be educated in their own districts.

“My work focuses on implementing a new computerized student information management system,” Winkler explains. “I am part of a team of administrators that supports the infrastructure of our 15 special education buildings. This is a new, unexpected, but welcome challenge that is very different from my previous hands-on work, yet I am finding it to be an exciting opportunity. I have learned that leading a team of people has many commonalities regardless of the task, and I am grateful to be working closely with very talented and dedicated educators.”

Eastern Suffolk’s Homeless Children and Youth programs are designed to make sure that homeless children in Suffolk County are enrolled in and attending school, and are receiving all services to which they are entitled.

“These rights are spelled out in the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless [Assistance Act] legislation and require a great deal of advocacy to ensure,” Winkler notes. “There are more than 1,000 homeless schoolchildren in Suffolk on any given day.”

The Even Start programs, she notes, reach out to poverty-level families in which at least one parent has literacy needs (either they don’t speak English or they score below the ninth-grade level on the Test for Adult Basic Education). These families also must have at least one child under age 7.

“We provide adult education and early childhood education for all family members, both at our centers and in the family’s home,” Winkler says. “Key to Even Start is the focus on improving parenting skills and helping the families to engage in interactive literacy activities between parents and their children. Parents are their child’s first and most important teacher. We help to strengthen this role.”

The Eastern Suffolk BOCES’ Parent-Child Home Program is a nationally acclaimed home-visitation model.

“We work with 2- and 3-year-old at-risk children and their parents to increase verbal interaction,” Winkler explains. “Longitudinal research conducted over a 30-year period demonstrates that these children graduate from high school at the same or better rate as their middle-class peers.”

Winkler, a psychology graduate, was certified to teach after leaving Lafayette, but never worked in a traditional public school classroom. She also earned two graduate degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a license in school district administration. Before her employment at BOCES, Winkler worked for a variety of nonprofits and school districts, focusing mostly on the educational rights of homeless school children and their families.

She remains connected to Lafayette by attending every Class of ‘77 reunion and serves as co-chair of the class reunion committee. She also attended the first Women in Leadership Conference organized by Council of Lafayette Women several years ago.

Winkler credits Lafayette for providing her with a solid base on which to build her career. She remembers a vibrant social scene and solid learning opportunities.

“Lafayette was a really fun time for me,” she recalls. “What I remember best is a great social life and many good friends. I keep in touch with a number of them, though none live near me. Academically, my psychology major was a perfect foundation for graduate work and my varied work experiences. I felt very well prepared for the subsequent academic challenges and believe I developed some serious critical thinking skills that have served me well in many venues.”

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles