Longtime PBS KIDS exec Linda Simensky is leaving the pubcaster after 18 years to join educational app Duolingo as head of animation and scripted content.
Reporting to VP of studios and content Timothy Shey, Simensky started in her newly created position last week. She’ll lead the company’s efforts to create scripted and character-driven stories featuring Duolingo’s cast of human mascots. Her remit includes overseeing everything from original animation—which is largely handled in-house—to writing for the app’s original short fiction Stories product and the childhood literacy app Duolingo ABC. Simensky will also work on the company’s podcasts (available in Spanish, French and English), hands-free audio lessons and more.
Duolingo has big plans to continue expanding its original content, according to Shey, especially leaning on its proprietary characters. Best known for language-learning apps, the company is also looking at diversifying into other subjects like math with more free educational resources.
“[Shey] kept talking about the importance of character, development and storytelling, and that’s what I’m interested in. It sounded like such an interesting job,” says Simensky. “But what got me really interested is that it’s for all ages.”
Shey has been a longtime admirer of Simensky, and when this position was created, he asked her if she knew anyone who would be a good fit. Ready for a new challenge, Simensky put herself forward, putting an end to her nearly two-decade-long career at PBS KIDS. She most recently served as head of PBS KIDS content, overseeing the development of a large and diverse portfolio of shows, including Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts and Alma’s Way.
“Her efforts to transform the PBS KIDS lineup over the past several years have helped to position public media as the standard-bearer for excellence in children’s media,” a PBS spokesperson told Kidscreen. “We are grateful for all that she has done, and wish her well as she begins this next chapter.” PBS KIDS will soon launch a nationwide search for a new head of kids content.
Simensky leaves PBS five months after the departure of chief programming executive and GM for children’s media and education Lesli Rotenberg. Sara DeWitt has since been promoted to fill the position.
Before joining PBS, Simensky was SVP of original animation for Cartoon Network.
“I love my colleagues at PBS and we built a great thing, but I was ready for a new and different challenge,” says Simensky. “There were not many things that looked all that interesting to me, and I kept thinking that maybe the thing that I’m going to do next hasn’t been invented yet. When [Shey] approached me, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do next.'”