Lessons from an 'unparalleled' summer program
Breakthrough fellows forward social justice and career development
Jan. 10, 2019
⏱ 6 min read

Breakthrough Collaborative is a community that values diversity, equity and inclusion in every sense. Its commitment to taking the necessary steps to close the academic opportunity gap aligns with my own personal values and ideas regarding social justice, which is one of the reasons I was excited about the prospect of working with the organization.

Hey! The Breakthrough teaching fellow experience is designed for anyone interested in teaching. Apply by Feb 21 to become a Summer 2019 fellow.​

Their mission of “students-teaching-students, teachers-training-teachers” identifies the dual need for education preparation that (1) provides summer enrichment for motivated students from underserved backgrounds, so they can enter college ready to succeed, and (2) inspires and develops the next generation of teachers and leaders in the field of education, so they have the skills to promote this vision of social justice.

I chose to teach with Breakthrough because I wanted the opportunity to empower other students to love learning. I have been fortunate to have been instructed and mentored by teachers who cared deeply about both their subject matter and their students, and I believe their dedication helped me to develop a passion for inquiry and an interest in teaching others.

Before the summer program began, we—the teaching fellows—were taught classroom management skills, how to write lesson plans, and ways to effectively deliver content. Then, I learned how to be a teacher by actually being a teacher, a role I had never assumed before.

Classrooms that build community

I taught eighth-grade social studies, gymnastics, and assisted another teaching fellow with an art elective, so I was able to work with a range of different students in a variety of subject areas. I spent time prepping, but I also figured out how to think quickly on my feet and adjust my strategy when a lesson went in a different direction than originally planned.

Although building my competence was a process of trial-and-error, I was supported and encouraged by veteran teachers (who serve as instructional coaches), my site directors and, of course, my peer teaching fellows.

Some of the strongest, most meaningful bonds I forged were with the other college and high school students I collaborated with and learned from daily. I was surrounded by a community of hardworking and dedicated individuals—of all backgrounds and interests—brought together by our shared commitment to, and passion for, equal access to educational opportunities for all.

The days were long, but I was genuinely excited to go to work every day because I loved what I was doing. In particular, I valued the unique environment I was working in, where daily challenges were balanced by care and optimism. At the end of the day, I knew my work was making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

The best career prep you can get

My summer at Breakthrough was humbling, enriching, challenging and fun:

I want everyone my age, regardless of whether they plan to pursue a career in the field of education, to have the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges of teaching and mentoring middle schoolers.

These students are at a critical stage of development that many of us forget we ever went through. Those years are tough times of transition, and my students often acted out for underlying reasons they were unable to express or work through in other ways. It is, however, a period of immense growth in their lives, and the experience of supporting them through these moments changed my perspective on life.

I encourage anyone who is searching for teacher preparation opportunities to spend a summer teaching with Breakthrough. The ability to experience, as a college or high school student, what it feels like to be a teacher in a more formal environment—to learn how to connect with students inside and outside of the classroom—is unparalleled.

For those who want to pursue a career in education, a summer teaching with Breakthrough prepares you to enter a classroom with a better understanding of what being a classroom teacher entails.

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about wanting to make change through education. My long-term goal is to develop a new model for education, and start and run my own school in which to implement it. I am not quite sure what my path to achieving this goal will be, but the experience of teaching with Breakthrough confirmed for me that I want it to include being an educator

Teaching with Breakthrough last summer was a profoundly transformative experience. I am so thankful to have spent eight weeks learning and growing in an environment that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I gained time management skills, patience and resilience—in addition to insights into the barriers faced on all levels in creating educational parity—that will stay with me.

I had the privilege of spending my summer learning through the experience of teaching, and I am excited by the prospect of being able to return and implement what I have gleaned again this summer, so that I can continue to grow as a student, leader and human being.

Seychelle Mikofsky is from Buffalo, New York, and is a student at the University of Chicago. She taught with Breakthrough Miami in 2017.

Feeling inspired?

Breakthrough Collaborative's deadline for the Summer 2019 Fellowship is Feb 21. Apply now!

Not quite ready for a pre-teaching experience? Take our roadmap quiz to find out if you're a good fit for the teaching profession.