The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

Teachers Before Townsend: Mr. Dunbar’s journey from teaching at his alma mater to working at THHS

Mr.+Dunbar+teaches+the+drama+class+at+the+THHS+Writers+Academy+Summer+Writing+Retreat.
Johnson Liu
Mr. Dunbar teaches the drama class at the THHS Writers Academy Summer Writing Retreat.
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Growing up, Townsend Harris High School English teacher and Nightingale Theatre Company advisor, Ryan Dunbar, never saw himself becoming an educator. He considered “a million different career ideas,” whether that was becoming a sports writer or even pursuing a career as a performer. It was only in his senior year of college, when his professor asked him to serve as a teacher’s assistant for a drama class, that he began to consider pursuing education.

Through the New York Teaching Fellows program, Mr. Dunbar was able to begin teaching only months after graduating from college. His first job as a teacher was at Louis Pasteur Middle School 67, where English teacher and Classic advisor Brian Sweeney also coincidentally began his first job as a teacher. 

Although Mr. Dunbar was proud of teaching at 22 years old, he felt nervous due to a lack of experience. “I didn’t really know what I was doing yet, but also having Mr. Sweeney there, even the 24-year-old version of Mr. Sweeney, was super helpful, and he was such a comfort, and that’s where we became buddies,” he said. 

Both teachers further advanced their teaching careers, with Mr. Dunbar receiving an offer to teach at Chaminade High School, which he once attended as a student, and Mr. Sweeney starting his career at THHS. Mr. Dunbar continued to work at Chaminade High School for three years until he received a call from Mr. Sweeney regarding an opening for an English teacher at THHS. 

Although Mr. Dunbar was hesitant to leave his current position, he was willing to shadow Mr. Sweeney for a day. He said, “I followed him around [and] went to all his classes. After that, I was like, I mean, how can you come into Townsend Harris and not say ‘I’m interested’? This school is everything I didn’t know I wanted to see in a high school. The welcoming atmosphere, the caliber of the students, and the commitment to not just what’s done in the classroom but in extracurriculars [all stood out].” 

Impressed by what THHS had to offer, Mr. Dunbar was invited to be interviewed for the position, which coincidentally aligned the day his wife began feeling as if she might be going into labor with their first child. Not wanting to leave his wife alone, he decided to stay at home, but was ultimately convinced by his wife to go. He said, “I did the interview [and] then a couple of hours later I [was] at the hospital. Much thanks to my wife who convinced me to attend the interview [and] I have to thank my son for holding on for a couple extra hours. If this tale has taught you nothing else, it’s that all of this was just destined to be.”

In regards to bringing Mr. Dunbar to THHS, Mr. Sweeney said, “I’ve always thought highly of him. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever met. I was really hoping he’d come work here, and I think that it was the right decision. He’s made the school a better place. He’s the perfect person to lead the drama department and to work on all of our theatrical productions. He never really had that chance at the middle school, so this was a good place for him to be.” 

Mr. Sweeney expressed feeling proud in getting to watch Mr. Dunbar grow as an educator. “We were together at the start of our careers, and so I feel a little protective in that way. I’m just very proud of everything that he’s done and I’m proud that people are so happy with him because I never hear a bad word about him. Students are always happy to be in his class and to get to know him and learn from him,” he said. 

Sophomore Bryson De Los Santos, a student who takes Mr. Dunbar’s English selective Worlds a Stage, said, “[Mr. Dunbar is] full of energy and entertaining, yet still manages to present the material clearly in an easy-to-understand [manner].”

Similarly, sophomore William Algenio expressed his gratitude to Mr. Dunbar for creating an encouraging and welcoming environment. He said, “When I transferred into [THHS], he was very welcoming, making me feel at home in an unfamiliar place. He radiates good vibes and puts a smile on my face.”

Junior Alyshia Olazabal shared her appreciation for Mr. Dunbar’s personality and classroom ambiance. She said, “He’s not so strict where his class is stressful, but he makes sure you get work done. The fact his class is very theater-based and we get to experience some of it ourselves is probably by far the most unique thing about this certain course.”

Although Mr. Dunbar’s selective focuses on theater, many students who are not interested in drama still find enjoyment in the way Mr. Dunbar teaches his class. Sophomore Elvis Chan said, “I’m not a big fan of the theatrical field, but in class, we do more than just acting and performing. We get to learn about how different roles and acting techniques make a play unique and special and well executed. We have the chance to learn about Shakespeare and how words in a book influences the character’s motives and conflicts. I don’t like to act, but I enjoyed learning all the different aspects of theatrical work” 

Likewise, Junior Ramisa Sharif said, “He makes theater interesting and fun, even to people who don’t have a particular interest in theater. Personally, I have never really been interested in musicals and plays, and still don’t really see myself getting majorly involved with them, but Mr. Dunbar still managed to make the class fun despite making the class pretty theatrical-literature heavy.”

Mr. Dunbar said he was grateful to be working at THHS and wouldn’t think of teaching elsewhere. He said, “Shoutout to my awesome colleagues ’cause they’re great…it’s been such a pleasure co-teaching with them. I would also like to shout out the New York Mets, and I would also have to shout out Mr. Sweeney for making all my dreams come true.”

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