Teachers Before Townsend: Ms. Lipinski’s journey from Pittsburgh to New York City public schools

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Prior to teaching English at Townsend Harris High School, Katherine Lipinski pursued various opportunities in different cities before eventually arriving at New York City and THHS.

Reflecting on life before THHS, Ms. Lipinski  said, “It was a lot of exploration of figuring out where I wanted to live and what I wanted to do.” Ms. Lipinski grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with three siblings and a family dog. For college, they decided to enroll at the University of Pittsburgh, believing it was “great to be close to family.”  

While at UPitt, Ms. Lipinski (who uses they/them pronouns) immersed themself in the humanities, majoring in English Literature and Art History, along with completing a minor in Museum Studies. Inspired by an internship they completed during college, Ms. Lipinski worked at museums around Pittsburgh. They then left “Steel City” and moved to Chicago, Illinois. While in Chicago, Ms. Lipinski took part in an AmeriCorps program, where they taught English and mathematics at an elementary school. 

Although Ms. Lipinski always knew they wanted to pursue a career in education, it was not apparent, at first, that they wanted to be a High School classroom teacher. After teaching elementary schoolers, Ms. Lipinski found their calling and decided to attend the Teachers College at Columbia University. Upon moving to New York for graduate school, Ms. Lipinski said they “loved it so much” and later secured their current position at THHS. 

Ms. Lipinski has worked at THHS for four years, teaching both freshmen and juniors. Alongside ISS and English teacher Natali Frank, they teach two double-band freshman English and Writing Process classes. Ms.Frank said, “I have had many co-teachers throughout my career, and I can honestly say Ms. Lipinski’s style, creativity, and empathy is one of a kind.” It isn’t just what and how Ms.Lipinski teaches, Ms Frank said, but also the positive relationships they are able to build with students that stands out. “The multitude of students who pop in to our class to visit us after we’ve taught them is a testament to the trusting and supportive environment that Ms. Lipinski strives to create. With each of those interactions, you can trust that Ms. Lipinski will take the time to truly listen to students and keep up with what’s happening in their lives,” Ms. Frank said. 

Additionally, Ms. Lipinski has been teaching AP English Language and Composition for two years. Regarding the difference between teaching two classes varying in not only material and rigor but also age, they said, “ninth grade is an important year for English” since it teaches students skills that will be used for the rest of their lives. “What I love in teaching both is that I know what skills they are going to need for junior year and so I can better align my ninth grade course with that,” they continued. Ms. Lipinski expressed their fondness for teaching students of varying age groups as it allows them to adapt their approach to the needs and curricula of each group. 

Ms. Lipinski, with fellow English teacher Ms. Levine, are founding advisors of the new THHS student publishing house, the Starling Press. The publication allows students to become leaders and creatives in the literary sphere by submitting their writing and artwork and encouraging engagement in the humanities through the publication of books. According to Ms. Lipinski, the publication aims to make strides towards diversifying the racial and cultural composition of the publishing industry. 

As Ms. Lipinski continues teaching at THHS, they see themselves staying in NYC “indefinitely.”

One of Ms. Lipinski’s current students, freshman Seira Tashiro, said, “Ms. Lipinski doesn’t only make me a better listener, speaker, and student, but [they] always make me feel welcome in [their] classroom. There are so many traits that make Ms. Lipinski a wonderful teacher and a trusted adult in any given learning space.” Additionally, former student, sophomore Andrew Gurcharan said, “Ms. Lipinski is a great role model and was able to keep our class of rowdy freshmen entertained while teaching us. [They are] always there for us both as a teacher and a friend.”

Photo by Chayti Biswas