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

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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

Lynne Greenfield: A Legacy of Creativity

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Lynne Greenfield, a former AP of Humanities known for her innovative ideas and supportive disposition, was a mentor for her colleagues. Photo courtesy of the Crimson & Gold.

On February 28, Lynne Greenfield, who was THHS’s Assistant Principal of Humanities from 1991-2002, passed away. Though she left THHS in 2002, she is still renowned among faculty for her dedication to fostering a love of humanities in the school as well as personal relationships with many current and former teachers.

Ms. Greenfield came to THHS in 1988 as an experienced English teacher, and became AP of Humanities in 1991. After leaving THHS, she taught the English language at Lehman College.

“Lynne Greenfield (Lynne with an ‘e’ she would always say), although not a member of the founding faculty, quickly became as one,” said former science teacher Odile Garcia.

Former principal of THHS Malcolm Largmann explained his decision to choose Ms. Greenfield as AP of Humanities.

“Ms. Greenfield was selected as supervisor of the humanities department not only because of her fine classroom performance, but because she represented the enduring spirit of Townsend Harris High School,” he said. “She had it all—great personal charm, sparkling intelligence, great creative thinking, compassion for colleagues and students, and a unique sense of fun. These are the qualities that defined her leadership of the humanities department.”

Ms. Greenfield made several contributions to the Humanities department during her time here.

“[Ms. Greenfield] knew that a young school, which we were when we re-opened in 1984, needed traditions and she helped mold them,” said former English teacher Debra Michlewitz, who described Ms. Greenfield as a “tornado of creativity and energy.”

One major tradition Ms. Greenfield helped establish was the Election Simulation, which was started in 1996 when a former teacher suggested the idea to her. She then organized various meetings between teachers from THHS and Queens College to organize and establish it.

 

“She was very progressive and open to new ideas,” said Social Studies teacher Chris Hackney, who also played a part in forming the Election Simulation.

She also helped foster the connections between THHS and Queens College to develop opportunities for seniors on campus.

Social Studies teacher Linda Steinmann recalled that Ms. Greenfield “had wonderful ideas about how to make [Founders’ Day] relevant.”

Ms. Greenfield started the “Founders’ Day Challenge,” which she was inspired to start after a student sang a Billy Joel song as they were moving into the new building. She then formalized and turned this into a contest among all English classes in which students created skits, song parodies, top ten lists, and other acts with the winning entries to be performed on Founders’ Day. Although it is not strictly followed as a contest anymore, the vestiges of her idea are still evident through the humorous skit and songs performed at the ceremony.

“I, for one, will never forget the hilarious spoofs of our school that left the audience roaring with laughter. While the contest is no longer held, the tradition of humorous performances on Founder’s Day is part of Ms. Greenfield’s legacy,” said former English teacher Ilsa Cowen.

Another contribution Ms. Greenfield made to the humanities department was the addition of lessons on writing a college essay to all junior English classes. English teacher Judy Biener said that although this would mean a lot more work for Ms. Greenfield and the other English teachers, Ms. Greenfield did it because she thought it would be best for the students.

“During my junior year, I wrote my college essay in her class and she worked with me on draft after draft until we were both happy with it,” said Ilana Golin, ‘96.

“She had a lot of wonderful ideas about courses and projects for students,” added Dr. Steinmann.

Ms. Greenfield, spurred by her love of New York City and its diversity, heavily emphasized interdisciplinary education in the school and tried to connect various departments to create a more enriching experience. For example, she united two teachers to collaborate on an English/Art elective, and also started the elective “The Big Apple,” in which students visited various places in NYC and wrote about them afterwards. In her “Native Voices” elective, students made documentaries about their family heritages. She also aligned what students were learning in English classes with their history lessons.

“She encouraged experimentation and was all for interdisciplinary projects,” said Ms. Cowen. “When I wanted to collaborate with teachers in the science department on joint projects for our Writing Process and biology classes, she was all for it.”

Ms. Greenfield was also known for organizing ambitious freshman trips—her inspiration was Homer’s Odyssey. On one trip, freshmen visited a Hindu temple in Flushing, a restaurant in Chinatown, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art all in one day to explore characteristics of various civilizations and cultures.

Dr. Largmann also explained another reason he chose Ms. Greenfield to be AP of Humanities: “She had a wonderful ability to identify new, young teachers who thrived under her guidance.”

The first person Ms. Greenfield hired was Humanities teacher Raquel Chung, who came to THHS from teaching at a middle school.

“[Ms. Greenfield] was in a sense my mentor. She taught me how to adapt and work with high school students,” she recalled.

Ms. Chung adds that as a new teacher, she “would approach a lesson with [Ms. Greenfield] in mind.”

Many other teachers also looked up to Ms. Greenfield for inspiration.

“She always had a better understanding of characters than I did,” said English teacher Judy Biener.

Ms. Biener recalled how she and her students had always classified “Zeena” from Ethan Frome as a bad person. Ms. Greenfield, however, saw a good side to Zeena and told Ms. Biener this, permanently reforming how Ms. Biener taught the book to her class.

Ms. Biener also recollects  how, during the time when Ms. Greenfield was still a teacher, Ms. Greenfield invited her over for dinner to give her pointers on teaching.

From the beginning, Ms. Greenfield was dedicated to perfecting the school to her best ability.

Dr. Steinmann said that when THHS was relocated to the current building in 1995, Ms. Greenfield was “crazed” about the auditorium. Ms. Chung recalls Ms. Greenfield’s dislike of the auditorium seats and how she tried to fix them.

“She was so concerned that people wouldn’t enjoy what they saw because of the discomfort of the seats,” Ms. Chung said, laughing.

Because of this concern, Ms. Greenfield purchased ostentatiously yellow, personalized THHS cushions for the auditorium seats. The cushions were eventually sold as a fundraiser for the humanities department.

According to Dr. Steinmann, upon moving into the building the auditorium’s sound system was also less than satisfactory.

“[Ms. Greenfield] bugged people at the Board of Education to get it fixed,” she said.

Greenfield 1Another instance of her dedication to perfection occurred when she gathered a group of volunteers to repair the once decrepit Harold, the tin can dinosaur built by THHS’s Society for the Preservation of the Earth club.

Ms. Garcia recalls another example of Ms. Greenfield’s meticulous dedication.

“When the large Peace Dove installed in the front Hall by Amnesty International—made of paper feathers with a signed “contract” on them by every school member confirming his/her respect and tolerance for others—began to deteriorate, she helped re-install it with a black background at another location,” added Ms. Garcia.

During her time at THHS, Ms. Greenfield also came up with the idea of Vocabulary Month and the THHS Writer’s Manual.

In addition to being an innovative AP, Ms. Greenfield was an inspirational teacher.

“I clearly remember her teaching us that words have specific meanings, and you can’t just stick whatever word you want in a sentence and hope for the best,” said Ms. Golin. “She used to say that strong writing is about finding the right word to convey specific meaning. It’s a lesson I draw on all the time.”

She adds that she read many of her favorite books while in Ms. Greenfield’s class.

“She instilled in me a love of literature that I continue to carry with me,” she said.

Ms. Greenfield also had a great sense of humor, which Ms. Biener said made work more enjoyable.

“You must know…in addition that Lynne made absolutely the best chocolate cake any chocolate lover could imagine,” recalls former librarian Valerie Billy. “My mouth waters just thinking about it.”

Whenever it was a teacher’s birthday, Ms. Greenfield would make a huge, triple chocolate cake. In addition, when a teacher had a baby, she would knit them various items; she also formed the Knitting Club.

Sheila Orner, former Assistant Principal of Guidance, sums up Ms. Greenfield’s contributions that “set the standard of excellence for a Humanities program.”

“Under her leadership, the humanities department and its programs were one of the finest in the city… As a result  THHS had the finest newspaper, literary magazine, debate team and drama club to name a few.”

Upon retiring, Ms. Greenfield expressed her love for THHS when she told The Classic: “What I will miss most about my job here is teaching and laughing with the kids every day.”

After retiring, Ms. Greenfield continued to channel her creativity and ambition into living life to the fullest, always doing challenging things that people of her age might avoid, such as hiking in the Himalayas.

“As she had hoped, her retirement meant she had a lot more time for reading, theater, opera, hiking on fabulous trips all around the world, and friends,” said Ms. Cowen.

She especially maintained her inseparable, personal relationship with Dr. Steinmann. The pair traveled to places such as London, China, Turkey, France, and more recently, Uzbekistan, in addition to spending every summer in Vermont together.

“She was the kind of person we all strived to be,” said Dr. Steinmann.

Ms. Biener agrees, calling Ms. Greenfield “a good model for how to live life.”

Dr. Largmann expressed gratitude for Ms. Greenfield’s contributions and emphasized their importance for students, saying, “To the current and future students of Townsend Harris High  School: Remember, the success of the school is the reflection of educators like Lynne Greenfield.”

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  • G

    Gregory GreneAug 11, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    I’m so sorry to learn of Lynne’s passing. She was a truly wonderful person, and long after THHS she continued to fill an invaluable role as a Field Supervisor for Teachers College Columbia University. The difference she made to me in that role was just extraordinary – she went over and above to ensure that a position that was initially very problematic became hugely rewarding. A fine, fine person. I learned of her passing because an email thank you bounced back; her significance to me can be measured by my trying to contact her five years after she worked with me.

    Reply
  • Z

    Zina KronerSep 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Ms. Greenfield was a huge inspiration to me. She taught me to think critically and to be bold with my writing. She was so devoted to her students and to her field. She shaped the way I approach literature and I will definitely always have her in my memory. We were all so lucky to have her as a teacher. Thank you, Ms. Greenfield.
    Zina (Izrael) Kroner ’93

    Reply
  • A

    Aram TaleporosSep 16, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Lynne was a very special teacher and I remember her classes well (even many years later.) She was a fellow Manhattanite who would occasionally give me a ride home if I was at school late. (often doing something for her on an antiquated computer) She was kind compassionate and funny. She gave me the biggest surprise my senior year, the first Bernice Horrowitz Humanities Award that I still treasure today. She had the ability to reach and help students excel regardless of their circumstances. She will be missed…

    Reply
  • D

    DeniseSep 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Beautifully written. Sounds like a wonderful lady… I wish I was there to experience her greatness. Rest in perfect peace.

    Reply
  • P

    Paul GambinoAug 29, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    Ms. Greenfield was my Humanities English teacher at RHHS. She was an inspiration to me and many of my classmates. In a high school that was not known for its academics or progressive thinking Ms. Greenfield was a symbol of what was beyond the walls of this “safe and simple” HS.

    Reply
  • R

    Richard V. RussoAug 6, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    When Lynne’s father reposed, I paid a Shiva call. It was a Sunday and I had just come from serving the Divine Liturgy in my church (St. Michael’s @ 266 Mulberry St.) Still dressed in my ‘clerics’, I bought a cake and rang the bell. Lynne welcomed me warmly to her appartment. At a certain point virtually all the family and friends left. Later Lynne sat down beside me and asked, “I wonder what my family thought of Catholic priest’s attending Dad’s Shiva.” I reassured her, “Not to worry. I told them that just before the end he converted.” She broke into peals of her characteristic hoarse laugh. “Don’t you remember?”, I asked, “that was when everybody got up and left.” Another guffaw! I can hear it even now! May G-d comfort you among all the other mourners of Jerusalem and Sion.

    Reply
  • S

    Seth CohenJun 14, 2014 at 9:19 am

    I was the student who sang the Billy Joel song 🙂 Lynne will be missed.

    Reply
  • M

    Murray TandlerMay 21, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Lynne and I were colleagues before she came to Townshend. I was the NYC Academy of Finance director (now retired, of course)and Lynne ran the companion Academy of Travel & Tourism. Ultimately, these programs became part of a national network of career academies under the auspices of the National Academy Foundation. When she left the directorship to go to Townshend I understood her need to be directly involved on the front lines. I had even worked as a colleague of Dr. Largmann back in the day at Tilden HS and knew she would be in a great place to work. I have just learned of Lynne’s passing and am devastated. Lynne’s sparkling personality, acute intelligence, and ability to cut through B.S. made her a quintessential educator–who always placed the interest of the kids first. I am so sorry her life was cut short–she had so much to give to the world. R.I.P., dear friend.

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