New teacher spotlight: Mr. Morrison and Mrs. Garklavs join the ISS department

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This school year, Townsend Harris High School welcomed new teachers Christopher Morrison and Charlene Garklavs into the ISS (Instructional Support Services) department. 

Mr. Morrison graduated from Long Island University: Brooklyn with a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Prior to teaching at THHS, Mr. Morrison taught at John Jay School for Law in Brooklyn for three years. Believing that all students should have the opportunity to excel, he felt compelled to join our school community after seeing the wide range of programs that were offered to all students. 

At THHS, Mr. Morrison teaches Social Studies and works in the ISS department. His love for history began in high school. Mr. Morrison said that “His 11th grade history teacher wrote [the word history] on the chalkboard and circled the word ‘story.’ She said, ‘We’re going to learn the greatest story that was ever told. History.’ It was that one little moment that sparked my interest in history and all I wanted to learn was more and more. ” 

Mr. Morrison teaches AP United States Government and Honors Economics to seniors, while also managing Freshman Advisory. “The 9th graders are just figuring things out. But for seniors, I’m helping them with the Election Simulation and learning from them what the culture of the school is and how things are done,” he said. 

Ms. Garklavs teaches English and also works in the ISS department. She graduated from St. John’s College at Maryland and got her Master of Arts in theology at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Westchester County, New York. She later pursued a Master’s in Education at Queens College as well. 

After being accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows program, Ms. Garklavs was introduced to special education and decided to work under ISS. “It took me time to think about it and now I think it was a very interesting challenge because a big part of ISS is not about the content but about how people learn best,” she said. “It is like reinventing the wheel and trying to make it more accessible.” 

Ms. Garklavs, after spending many years teaching at the Academy of American Studies in Long Island City, decided to join the THHS faculty after hearing about the community from current English teacher Christine Duffy. “She tells me about how wonderful the students are and how much she enjoys her colleagues,” Ms. Garklavs said. 

Ms. Garklavs teaches AP Language and Composition with Ms. Duffy and AP Literature and Composition with Mr. Morello. She enjoys Greek mythology and Shakespearian plays, analyzing them from a feminist lens and connecting them to today’s world. “Reading works of literature, nonfiction, and philosophy, as well as talking and writing about it helps us think about the world differently,” she said.

After settling into our school community, both teachers expressed their appreciation of the welcoming community. “I love how everyone is so intertwined and there’s people everywhere,” Mr. Morrison said. Ms. Garklavs agreed that “there is a culture of positivity and inclusivity” in our school. 

Assistant Principal and Supervisor of the ISS department, Ms. Brandeis, commented on the arrival of Mr. Morrison and Ms. Garklavs. She said, “They are committed and passionate educators who come to us with a great deal of experience and enthusiasm and who deeply care about their students. I am looking forward to working closely with them to ensure all our students receive the best and most meaningful education.”

Photo by Chayti Biswas