Sub spotlight: the life and times of Mr. Kirschner

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Photo by Kari Iocolano

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Andrew Kirschner, a friendly face at Townsend Harris, is a substitute teacher who has taught most, if not all, of the students at Townsend Harris High School.

Born into the Kirschner family of the Kirschner Brush Mfg. Company, Mr. Kirschner graduated from the University of Buffalo with a degree in Media Studies and was a video editor up until the birth of his daughter. He went back to school and got a Masters in Urban Planning from Hunter College, then continued to work alongside his father at their family’s paint brush factory while also working as a cashier at Waldbaum’s.

It was at Waldbaum’s where he discovered his love of teaching through interaction with his teenage co-workers. “I found out that I really had a way with that age group. I noticed I was being looked-up to, and that it mattered what I said and did,” he said, adding, “I’ve always loved history and geography, so I made the leap.”

A Social Studies teacher by license, Mr. Kirschner joined the substitute teachers of THHS in May 2012 with experience in working in schools such as John Adams High School, Herricks High School, John Bowne High School, and Intermediate School 25. Though he worked as a leave replacement last year in a middle school in the Bronx, he has subbed more often at THHS.

“Every school is different. I can tell you this: it would be hard to find one where most students are as motivated as those at THHS. Half the time when they’re sneaking, it’s because they’re doing work [for] another class,” Mr. Kirschner chuckled.

One of the challenges of subbing is the erratic time commitments. “Sometimes I’m scheduled ahead of time, and of course that’s what I prefer. But then sometimes I’m called right on the spot, six or six-thirty in the morning, or later. I’ve even been called after the school day starts,” he said.

As a Social Studies teacher, Mr. Kirschner frequently hopes that he subs in that particular subject. Senior Jennifer Jacob recalled his helpfulness when subbing for a history class. “I remember him being very passionate about history, so when we were trying to do an APUSH assignment he would give us mini-history lessons,” she recalled.

Subbing at schools other than THHS  is a different experience. “There have been schools where I could barely teach at all.” He spoke of dealing with disadvantaged children, saying, “There just isn’t much discipline. It’s an unfortunate result of poverty when parents are away working 24 hours a day.”

His least favorite part of being a substitute is the difficulty of obtaining a permanent job. “Obviously that’s what I’m ultimately in it for. It’s an ongoing frustration. Of course as any teacher will tell you, it’s exhausting, high pressure work,” he lamented.

However, being a substitute teacher can also be rewarding. Mr. Kirschner’s favorite things about teaching include positive interactions with young people.  “Even just being a sub at THHS, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in things like the Nerf Evasion games, and that has been great. This kind of thing is just too much fun to be called work,” he expressed.

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