Teachers before Townsend: What led alumnus Mr. Amanna to return to THHS


Mr. Amanna actually spent years exploring the teaching profession after graduating from Townsend Harris, before deciding to return and work as a Classical Languages teacher.

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Chris Amanna, a classical languages teacher at Townsend Harris High School, walked THHS’ halls as a student 17 years ago. After being a student at THHS and before becoming a teacher at THHS, Mr. Amanna was torn between pursuing a career in architecture or teaching.

Throughout his childhood, Mr. Amanna had a strong interest in architecture, he told The Classic. However, the more he studied languages during his time at THHS, the more he gravitated towards pursuing a career in teaching languages, specifically Latin. Like many teachers, pursuing education wasn’t a line of work that he was fully sold on yet. “It was always something that was in the back of my mind. I wouldn’t say that I immediately wanted to be a teacher from day one,” Mr. Amanna said.

His experience at Hunter College, where he found himself surrounded by peers who were also studying to become teachers, guided him and ultimately solidified his decision to begin his career as an educator.

Before his return to THHS, Mr. Amanna taught at Williamsburg Charter School in Brooklyn for a year, and then transferred over to Maspeth High School, where he taught for over five years. During this period, he gained a new perspective on his students’ behavior and felt more capable in knowing how to help students with different strengths.

With this new experience and a better understanding of the profession, he was ready to explore new endeavors in his career. When an opening became available at THHS, he realized that returning to his alma mater would be a wonderful opportunity, especially since he had fond memories of his own time as a student here. 

In 2017, Mr. Amanna returned to THHS in the Classical Languages Department as a Latin teacher. After over a decade since he attended the school as a student, he recalls how the school not only improved in providing challenging and quality courses for its students, but also encouraged them to be more vocal. “Students can advocate for themselves a lot more [and] the teachers and administrators listen to them more than they did when I attended,” said Mr. Amanna.

Latin teacher Jonathan Owens said he values Mr. Amanna’s enthusiasm and supportive attitude. “From the very beginning, [Mr. Amanna was] incredibly helpful with everything. Even though I [had been teaching] here for a very long time, he would always show the stuff he was doing and give it to me to use in my classes. We’re always bouncing ideas off of each other, and we often teach the same level, so we’ll ask each other [questions about lessons],” Mr. Owens said.

Outside of Latin, Mr. Amanna aims to broaden his language skills by learning French. He said, “I have been trying to pick up a little more French [when I am] in the office with Ms. Sierra and Ms. Lopera. I’ve been listening to more French music, and that’s where my interest is.” 

Spanish teacher Beatriz Ezquerra, Mr. Amanna’s former educator, reflected on his growth from his transition as a student to a teacher at THHS. She said, “Mr. Amanna turned into an extraordinary person who I can count on for not only support but also advice in any aspect of life. I sincerely appreciate him so much.”