Life Outside the Box With Ms. Latisha Coombs

Bronx Science teacher Latisha Coombs is a poet, a parent, as well as an educator. It’s time we learn more about her as a person.

Ms. Latisha Coombs, Bronx Science Biology teacher, when asked if shes writing an autobiography, replied, A story about my life? It’d be a best seller. (Laughs) Let me tell you.

Acadia Bost

Ms. Latisha Coombs, Bronx Science Biology teacher, when asked if she’s writing an autobiography, replied, “A story about my life? It’d be a best seller. (Laughs) Let me tell you.”

I think it’s hard for some people to think about mixing science and art. They seem so separate, but in reality, they are not. It’s the same for personal and professional lives — it’s difficult to see a person for who they are beyond their role they play in your life. We see people through the lens of context that we know them from. But everyone is a million things combined into one. Ms. Latisha Coombs, a Bronx Science Biology and Nutritional Science teacher, is both a science and an art person, a parent and a teacher.

Coombs has always known that she loved science. She was the only one in her family interested in it, but some part of her was called to it from a young age. She went to a nursing-focused vocational high school, and planned on being a doctor. Writing, however, was more in the background. 

LATISHA COOMBS: “I’ve always been told that I was a good writer. I never really tapped into it because I was so much into science, and science took up a lot of my time. When I got into grad school, [I] had to do a lot of writing and my teacher said, “You are a really good writer; you have to write.” So I wrote more, not only poems, but short stories.” 

One of her biggest inspirations as a writer is Maya Angelou. Coombs particularly likes the poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’:

Though it was never a focus or something she consciously tried to improve at, writing was something she always enjoyed. 

LATISHA COOMBS: “When I was younger I wrote about things that happened in life. For instance, I had a lot of people that I love pass away at one time. I started writing then.”

The therapeutic aspect of writing has stayed an important part of Coombs’ life, but it’s evolved into a focus on emotionally driven poetry. When asked what she wrote most of this poetry about, Coombs said,

LATISHA COOMBS: “Life. Things that are going on in life. Writing is a way for me to communicate my feelings. I’m not the most adept at showing feelings. Even if I’m not okay, I look okay. But what I do to release it, I work it out, first of all, but I also write what I’m feeling. And the poem that I wrote about George Floyd — that was all that I was feeling.” 

The poem she was referring to is  one she wrote in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd. This is an excerpt from it:

But instead you kneel on my neck

And you take my breath

While I plead for my life on ears that are deaf.

I am a human being, listen to me!!!

All I need is compassion, can’t you see?!??

I wasn’t even ready to leave.

But I saw my momma standing there

With her arms outstretched, saying come here dear,

So I went to her without fear.

LATISHA COOMBS: “It was long…I didn’t expect that. But between that and what was going on at Bronx Science at the time, it was just so much that I had to pen it on paper.” 

For Coombs, writing is directly tied with science. 

LATISHA COOMBS: “I can’t choose one. Because for me, science is in everything that we do. So to me, without science, there’s not really existence, because [whatever it is], in some way, shape or form, science has something to do with it.” 

She wants to break norms about what it means to be interested in science and the scientific field partially because she didn’t see anyone breaking those norms when she was younger. 

LATISHA COOMBS: “I feel like I would like to be an inspiration [for] science. I think there’s a lot of misconception when it comes to science and people who like science, and what scientists look like.” 

ACADIA BOST: “That you guys are all, like, nerdy?”

LATISHA COOMBS: “Like we’re all nerdy, or we’re all white, or we’re all male. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can be a cool scientist. Right? Science is everything. Above all, you don’t have to choose humanities or science. You can do both. So I think I would say if you like both, pursue both.”  

I asked her if she had any Black women to look up to as teachers when she was a student.

LATISHA COOMBS: “None. In high school I didn’t have any, no. My only Black teachers were my nursing teachers. Female. Biology? No. Chemistry? No. In college, they were all white, mainly male, I had one or two female teachers. And I’ve taken so many science classes. None.” 

Coombs speaks on representation and inspiration in the science field: “You don’t have to be looking a certain way to be taken seriously as a science person. You can be just who you are and love science. And that’s fine. ” (Acadia Bost)

In terms of the future of her writing, Coombs thinks there might be some branching out in store — a novel about her life could be on the table.

LATISHA COOMBS: “My life? It’d be a bestseller. (laughs) Let me tell you. Yes, I have thought about that. I’m adjusting to a lot of things. Once I slow down, I will probably write something. I’ve transitioned a lot, I’ve changed a lot. There have been a lot of changes in my life. I think it would just be an interesting story. Sometimes when I tell people about it, what I’ve gone through and what I’ve overcome, they say, ‘You need to write a book!’ I say, ‘I know! Tell me about it!’ 

I asked her what she would name the book.

LATISHA COOMBS: “I don’t know, I might just self-title it. I don’t think there’s a title that I could give it that would explain it all, you know?”

ACADIA BOST: “Yeah, I feel like a whole life can’t really be summed up in a title.” 

LATISHA COOMBS: “Yeah. It would just have to be like ‘The Autobiography of…’ You know? Like Malcom X’s is just ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ because there’s just so much that happened. It would be the same thing. ‘The Autobiography of Latisha Coombs.’”

Ms. Latisha Coombs has a very bright personality and a lot of interests. Her teaching, as well as her writing, is filled with creativity and passion. This is her, through a small window out of the box.

Ms. Latisha Coombs has a very bright personality and a lot of interests. Her teaching, as well as her writing, is filled with creativity and passion. This is her, through a small window out of the box.

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