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February 24, 2017

Meet Kristina Kirtley

As a Producer in the Education Department, Kristina Kirtley creates education resources for PBS LearningMedia, leads professional development workshops for teachers in how to use media in the classroom, and manages national outreach with other PBS stations promoting WNET productions. Read on to learn about the public media programs that inspired Kristina as a child, the current show her children are “wild” about, her favorite places in Astoria, and more.

What is your background, and how did you land at WNET?

Originally from Oklahoma, I’ve been in New York City for nearly fifteen years. Before NYC, I attended college in California, and then lived abroad for a few years in England and Israel. When I landed in New York, I began my career in education as a New York City Teaching Fellow teaching high school English and film studies in the Bronx. After five years of teaching, I decided to leave the classroom and find ways to support teachers in using media and film. I worked as a Program Manager at International Cinema Education, a non-profit at the United Nations that uses film to teach students about global issues, and as a Museum Educator at the Museum of the Moving Image, before finding my way to WNET.

Are there any current or upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?

Right now I’m working on a number of projects, including creating an Islam Toolkit using new and existing resources on PBS LearningMedia to help K-12 teachers educate their students about Islam and promote tolerance and understanding about the religion and culture; producing a resource collection about the Constitution using a video series filmed at Bowdoin College called Founding Principles; and creating an interactive lesson about the importance of setting in To Kill a Mockingbird. I love that my job is all over the place in terms of content. One day I might reread To Kill a Mockingbird and the next day research the history of executive orders and limits of presidential power.

For our Media with Impact campaign, we’ve been asking viewers to share stories describing how THIRTEEN has influenced their life. How has THIRTEEN (or the PBS station of your childhood) inspired you?

I grew up on a steady diet of PBS programming with shows like Sesame Street, Nature, Masterpiece Mystery! (I really loved the intro and theme song as a kid.), and all the BBC adaptations of classical literature (especially Jane Austen). My mom is an Anglophile and former orchestra teacher, so PBS has always been our channel of choice. Now, with my own kids, it’s been fun to introduce them to all the shows I enjoyed. Right now my kids are obsessed with the Spy Creatures from Nature’s Spy in the Wild miniseries. If anyone can hook us up, they would love to meet one of the robots!

Where do you live, and what are some of your favorite places in your neighborhood?

I live in the Ditmars area of Astoria, near Astoria Park. The best thing about our neighborhood is definitely the food! There are some amazing Greek restaurants like Agnanti and Taverna Kyclades, and we have the best Italian place in the city, Trattoria L’incontro. If you’re looking for something a little different, there’s an Australian place called The Thirsty Koala and an eclectic small dishes place called The Pomeroy. In recent years, a lot of great bars have opened up like The Bonnie, Let Love Inn, The Ditty, and Crescent and Vine.

What book are you currently reading?

I usually read more than one book at a time, one fiction and one non-fiction. Right now I’m reading Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. It’s a classic that I’ve always wanted to read, but it’s been hard for me to finish because I’m distracted by all the stories that aren’t being told. After seeing the movie Hidden Figures and reading The Rise of the Rocket Girls, I just find myself frustrated with Wolfe, even though his writing is incredible. I do want to finish it, but might put it aside for the next book on my list, The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jasmyn Ward. I read Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time in college and really want to dig in to this contemporary response. I’m also finishing up The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, and before that I read The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin. I’m just as likely to read fantasy, science fiction, or a fun YA book as I am to read serious literature.

Do you have a special interest or hobby outside of work? If so, tell us about it!

I’m an active member of the Chickasaw Nation, a Native American tribe in Oklahoma. I’m part of a traditional stomp dance troupe that performs at Native American festivals around the country. We wear traditional regalia, the women provide the beat with shakers on our ankles made out of tin cans or turtle shells filled with river rocks, and the men sing ancient call and response songs. I’m also working on writing the script for a series about the tribe that’s being produced by Chickasaw Media Services in Oklahoma. The first episode is about our earliest history and should be released later this year.

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