Humanities department welcomes four new teachers

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This school year, Townsend Harris welcomed teachers Frank Spitaleri, Natali Frank, Sarah Levine, and Anthony Balone to the Humanities department.

New Instructional Support Services (ISS) and social studies teacher Frank Spitaleri is a THHS alumnus. Upon graduating in 2010, Mr. Spitaleri earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English at Pace University and his Master’s Degree in Education at Hunter College. Prior to teaching at THHS, Mr. Spitaleri taught at MS 118 in the Bronx. 

Mr. Spitaleri credited his inspiration to become a teacher to his freshman year English teacher, Robert Babstock. “At a parent teacher conference, [Mr. Babstock] told my mom that he could envision me pursuing a career in education. When my mom relayed this to me, I was a bit surprised – I had never before considered teaching as a career path,” he said. “But, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense; I loved education and felt at home in a classroom. From that day forward, I decided to give it a shot, and I’m so glad that I did!”

Natali Frank will also be joining the ISS department as an English teacher. Ms. Frank explained that she chose to teach English because she wanted to share her passion for literature with her students, while “creating access points for [those] who may not share the same passion.” She attended SUNY Albany for her undergraduate degree and Long Island University and The College of St. Rose for her master’s degrees. 

Although her classroom now exists virtually, Ms. Frank said she hopes her students will consider it a safe and welcoming environment and is eager to connect with them in any way she can. “I love to learn about my students’ interests,” she said. “I will take the time to watch your favorite movie or listen to your favorite K-Pop song if it is important to you. Some of my favorite shows came at the recommendation of my former students.”

New English teacher Sarah Levine said she decided to apply for a teacher position at THHS because of current English teacher Katherine Lipinski. “[Ms. Lipinski] and I went through the same Master’s program and [she] would tell me how much she enjoyed her first year teaching here and how wonderful the students are.”

Ms. Levine majored in English Literature and minored in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Rochester, and went on to earn her Master’s degree from Teachers College Columbia University. She taught as a student teacher at the Bronx High School of Science, and her first full-time teaching position was at P.S./I.S. 218 in the Bronx, where she taught sixth and seventh grade English Language Arts.

Anthony Balone is THHS’ new provisional English teacher. Although Mr. Balone will only hold this position for one year, he is looking forward to becoming acquainted with THHS educators and students.

Mr. Balone has been teaching English in New York City since 2007. Much of his teaching career has taken place in a transfer school. 

“Transfer schools are for students between the ages of 16 and 21, who have either fallen behind or dropped out. It’s a last-chance opportunity to earn a high school diploma before aging out,” he explained. “Working alongside my students as they struggled to overcome obstacles and realize their potential, I have come to learn that education’s relationship with social justice is much more than an idealistic abstraction. Schools have the capacity to provide young people with possibility. It’s this broader mission that keeps me inspired today. I want my classroom to be an environment where students can thrive and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do that here at Townsend Harris.”

Despite the challenges posed by this school year, the new teachers shared their excitement about getting to know their students. 

Ms. Levine expressed that she wants to make sure her students are able to get the “most complete English education they can under these unsettled and unprecedented circumstances.” She added, “We are in this together and will muddle through as best we can.”

“My goal is to support my students in any way I can, both academically and on a social-emotional level,” said Mr. Spitaleri. “I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say that I’d love for things to go back to normal so we can all meet in person, but in these circumstances I’m hoping to do the best I can, and I hold the same expectations for my students.”

Photos courtesy of Mr. Spitaleri, Ms. Frank, Ms. Levine, and Mr. Balone.