Staff

Michelle Palmer, Director of Program
Michelle Palmer has recently been named Director of the Breakthrough Program at GFS. Michelle has been a devoted leader in the GFS community, serving as a teacher, administrator, and practitioner, for the past 12 years. She has worked closely with students, families, faculty, staff, and neighbors on various strategic initiatives, particularly in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to her work in the school’s Advancement office, Michelle serves as a certified facilitator for the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity (S.E.E.D.) staff-development project, and formerly managed the GFS Alumni of Color program. She has presented on engaging diverse communities at the 2018 CASE Conference in Philadelphia, the 2019 MCRC ADVIS conference, the 2019 People of Color Conference in Seattle and the upcoming 2020 New York State of Independent Schools.
Michelle is passionate about social justice issues and in 2020 co-taught a Social Justice class with GFS Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Angela Campbell and Director of Community Engagement Kathy Paulmier. She has also organized dialogues and events designed to bring people together, celebrate, and educate.
Michelle has worked in independent schools for over 16 years. She has a Master of Science in Education in Instructional Technology from Arcadia University, a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from New School University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Temple University. Michelle has been married to Conrad Waldron for ten years and is the mother to Jaden, Dean, and Paige.
Jamika Porter, Program Manager

Jamika Porter graduated from Eastern University with a BA in Organizational Leadership and Development and an MBA in Business Management. As the Program Manager for Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, she oversees all aspects of our programs with students, families, and teaching fellows.  With such love for what Breakthrough does for students, she has a true desire to be a part of positive change.

Debra Stevens, Recruitment Coordinator

Debra Stevens is the Recruitment Coordinator at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. In joining Breakthrough she was excited to be a part of a program that provides academic enrichment to the students of Philadelphia.

Debra is a native of Philadelphia and attended Community College of Philadelphia, where she received an Associate's degree in Information Technology and then attended Saint Joseph's University, where she received a Bachelor's of Science degree in Healthcare Administration.

Prior to joining Breakthrough Debra was a practice manager of a primary care office and also a software analyst and training consultant for ten years at a large company.

Matt Tornetta, Development & Communications Associate

Matt Tornetta is a is from northern New Jersey and graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Matt has been working in digital marketing and advertising for the past five years since has graduated from Marist in 2015. Matt has also worked with kids coaching ice hockey all over the united states over the summer. Matt is passionate when it comes to helping students further their education.

Miriam Leisman Rubin, Interim Managing Director

Miriam Leisman joined the staff of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia full time as the Director of Programs in 2015 after supporting Teaching Fellows for multiple summer programs since 2010.  An experienced educator with background in both information technology and curriculum development, Miriam brings a decade of experience as an educator and eighteen years of experience in the workforce.  In 2016, Miriam was made Director of Operations, Quality Assurance, and Instructional Design, and in 2020, Miriam accepted the role of Interim Managing Director.

Before joining Breakthrough, Miriam taught multiple subjects -- primarily Mathematics -- to middle and high school students in the Philadelphia area. She earned her Masters of Education in Secondary Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, her Bachelor of Arts in Jewish Studies from Scripps College in Claremont, California, and her Associate of Science in Computer Science from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Breakthrough Collaborative

180 Grand Ave #1225, Oakland, CA 94612, USA