Introducing new THHS faculty and staff: A Q/A with this year’s newest ISS teachers

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As the school year begins once again in an unconventional manner, it marks new realities, but also familiar sights. New teachers are by no means unfamiliar at Townsend Harris, but this year, the school has welcomed close to 20 new staff members. As part of The Classic’s introducing THHS teachers series, we gathered responses regarding the motivations, goals, and aspirations from THHS’ new staff members. 

As part of this week’s coverage, we spoke to Jamie Posner, Vidya Chow, Jennifer Johnson, Jake Ruiz, and Christine Gallagher, the newest additions to the ISS (Instructional Support Services) department, as they discussed their backgrounds, goals, and hopes for the future.

Jamie Posner 

  1. Tell us about yourself and your background. What department do you teach/oversee and how long have you been an educator? What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies, your interests, etc? 

My name is Ms. Posner, and I am a new ISS math and science teacher at THHS. This is my fourth year of teaching, and I previously taught geometry and Algebra II in the Rockaways. This year, I teach with Ms. Widman, Ms. Frankowski, and Mr. Connor. Before I became a teacher, I was on track to become a dentist. I was accepted into NYU Dental but decided teaching was a much better fit for me.

My hobbies/interests include swimming, traveling, going to concerts, and cooking. In my free time, I enjoy going to the beach. I was a lifeguard for ten years, so I love the water. I also like to cook (most nights, anyway). My favorite dish to make is chicken pot pie. As of this summer, I’ve joined the Peloton community. So far, I’m loving the workouts! I recently did the Spice Girls ride and never thought I’d have that much fun while exercising.

     2. What interests you about teaching? What motivated you to want to choose this career path? 

What interests me most about teaching was helping students achieve that “aha moment.” From experience, I’ve quickly learned that many students are intimidated by advanced concepts in math and science. It really excites me to see students apply the basics to make new connections and share these ideas with their classmates.

As soon as I began working in a dental clinic after college, I quickly learned that a career in dentistry was not for me. While working as a dental assistant, I also tutored high school students in math and science on the side. While I never wanted to fly out of bed early on a Sunday morning, I was always content once I began my day at the tutoring center. This notion gave me a preview of what my life could be for the next 25+ years, and this excited much more than the idea of being a dentist did. I decided to go for a Masters in math education. A few years later, I decided to put my Bachelors in chemistry to good use by pursuing certification in it during my second year of teaching.

     3. What are your goals for this school year? 

My goals for the school year are to get to know as many students as possible, start a Pre-Dental Club for students who are interested in dentistry, and look into starting a student exchange program at Townsend Harris.

     4. What do you look forward to the most this year? Is there anything you are excited about in becoming a new member of the THHS community? 

First and foremost, I’m ecstatic to be working with the coolest kids in NYC! I’m also very excited to experience Founder’s Day, FON, and S!NG. So far, everyone has been so welcoming, and I look forward to all that this school year has to offer!

Vidya Chow 

  1. Tell us about yourself and your background. What department do you teach/oversee and how long have you been an educator? What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies, your interests, etc?  

Hello, my name is Vidya Chow and I was born in NYC but lived in Canada for most of my childhood. I am teaching in the Instructional Support Services Department for mathematics. I have been an educator for sixteen years. In my free time, I like to participate in DIY crafts such as sewing or building things that I need around the house.  

     2. What interests you about teaching? What motivated you to want to choose this career path?

It has always been a natural inclination for me to become a teacher. I was told that when I was young, even before I started school, I would line up my stuffed animals and read to them and teach them things. I found out later, after I became a teacher, that I came from a long line of family members who were educators. Currently, I have an uncle and three cousins who are also teachers. From this, I firmly believe that being an educator is in my DNA.

     3. What are your goals for this school year? 

My goal for this school year is to help all the students in the classes I teach. The past school year was tough on students and teachers. Many things that were taken for granted such as meeting with people face-to-face, talking, exchanging ideas, sharing an “aha” moment with friends… etc. All these special opportunities were lost. This year, I am hoping we can build back these special moments in a safe environment in our classroom

     4. What do you look forward to the most this year? Is there anything you are excited about in becoming a new member of the THHS community?  

I am looking forward to working with high school students. I am excited because this is my first time working with high school students. Prior to this year, I only had experience working with students from middle school. Teaching in a high school offers new and fun opportunities and experiences. There are more students and the classes are more difficult. I am excited to take on this new challenge and to learn something new every day.  

Jennifer Johnson 

  1. Tell us about yourself and your background. What department do you teach/oversee and how long have you been an educator? What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies, your interests, etc?  

I have been a teacher for more than 20 years, with 12 of those years in the NYC public schools. I have taught students of all ages, and I am part of the Instructional Support Services Team. I co-teach in the Science Programs (mainly physics), but I am also teaching an introductory Latin course because I majored in Latin as an undergraduate. I have 9-year-old twin boys and I like coaching their soccer team in my free time.

     2. What interests you about teaching? What motivated you to want to choose this career path? 

So much of teaching is about developing relationships with students, with co-teachers, with all of my colleagues. Developing these relationships is something I truly value about teaching. I also love the creativity of teaching, of figuring out ways to make content meaningful and accessible for my students.

     3. What are your goals for this school year? 

One of my main teaching goals this year is to implement more project-based learning and other ways of assessing student understanding and mastery of skills/ content. There are so many ways to assess beyond just quizzes and tests.

     4. What do you look forward to the most this year? Is there anything you are excited about in becoming a new member of the THHS community?  

I am thrilled to be a part of the THHS community, and I am looking forward to growing professionally, to collaborating with the STEM team and ISS Team because both departments are exceptional. 

Jake Ruiz 

  1.  Tell us about yourself and your background. What department do you teach/oversee and how long have you been an educator? What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies, your interests, etc? 

My name is Jake Ruiz, and I’m in the ISS and social studies departments. I have been teaching for nine years and… I have taught in Brooklyn in the past. I’ve taught in the Bronx and I am a lifelong Bronx resident. I like to workout, and I like to play guitar, [having] played it for 15 years. I [also] taught myself how to code during the pandemic. It’s been something that has been really fun for me and I like to go out hiking and be outdoors. 

     2. What interests you about teaching? What motivated you to want to choose this career path? 

I’ve always been around and working with kids. I have previously been a camp counselor and camp director for about eight to ten years, and [there]it seemed like a very natural transition of my skills and really being able to see students learn. Being able to help other students who I see need the help that I could have benefited from being able to give that to them as well.

     3. What are your goals for this school year? 

My goals for this school year are to really just continue to push myself. I think students at THHS are really hard working and really engaged so being able to provide them with rich academic experiences. As well as to make them chill out a little bit, I feel like THHS students are really focused only on their grades. I really want them to see teachers as humans and not just these figures in a room teaching them stuff.

     4. What do you look forward to the most this year? Is there anything you are excited about in becoming a new member of the THHS community?

I think I’m really looking forward to a lot of the musical performances throughout THHS. Being a student who was really engaged in music in my high school, I’d love to kinda relive my glory days through the students and see them pull out some amazing things. 

Christine Gallagher 

  1. Tell us about yourself and your background. What department do you teach/oversee and how long have you been an educator? What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies, your interests, etc? 

My name is Christine Gallagher. I am in the ISS department and I also co-teach honors biology and earth science. I’ve been an educator for, this is going to be my 15th year. I started teaching in 2006. I started teaching at a school called Queens Vocational Technical High School. I started out as a general biology teacher then changed licenses to go into ISS or Instructional Support Services and I’ve been doing that for probably 12 years. Regarding free time, I am completely lazy (laughs). I sit on a couch and watch Netflix and other streaming services. I hang out with my family [frequently.] I have a big extended family, [including] my nieces and nephews and I spend a lot of time with my daughter when she is not busy. So I’m a very family-orientated person and I love to spend time with my family.

     2. What interests you about teaching? What motivated you to want to choose this career path? 

I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. My 9th grade math teacher basically said in front of the entire class [that] I wasn’t smart enough. It kinda sent me down an academic path that I didn’t really achieve very well and then now being a teacher I really do think about students in the class and if they really want to do this or I want to be this. I really think about that [experience] and never be discouraged from being told that you’re not smart enough or you can’t do that. Because this is a snapshot, we never know what someone is going to be. When I was in high school they probably never thought I’d achieve what I have achieved now. It had a lasting impact on my life and I try everyday to think about encouraging kids and empowering them. That is what I love most about the job, making students feel like they can.

     3. What are your goals for this school year? 

I want the students that I have the privilege of teaching [them] each day, that when they come to class, I’m in feel empowered and feel happy. That they are engaged in learning. That’s really important to me that every student who’s there feels like they can do it. I never want a student to leave feeling frustrated or angry. That they know more leaving than they did coming in.

     4. What do you look forward to the most this year? Is there anything you are excited about in becoming a new member of the THHS community?

I look forward to working with stellar educators that can help me grow in my practice as a teacher.

 

Photos by Kate Romero and Audrey Chou, Photography Editors

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