What was the interview process to become a Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough?
At the time, all interviews were still virtual. For the interview, I had to prepare a mock lesson, which I had never done before. I actually had a professor at Temple help me through the process. He was my mock class for all of my practice runs. I wound up doing a virtual lesson, which in hindsight – now that I have more experience – was probably not that good!
Prior to your interview, did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
No, not at all. Breakthrough was my deciding point. In college, I started off studying elementary education, transferred to Temple and explored human development and community engagement. I started doing some teaching and community work with a non-profit, and then Breakthrough came along to help me decide on teaching for the long run. Breakthrough was my first real teaching experience, where it was just me (leading) a classroom, and I had to make all the decisions.
What about Breakthrough convinced you that teaching was the career for you?
The biggest thing was competency. By the time I was halfway through, maybe even by the end of it, I realized that I could really do this. I formed really, really great connections with the kids – many of whom I’m still in contact with. I also formed strong relationships with my Teaching Fellow peers at Breakthrough; two of the Fellows actually attended grad school with me at University of Pennsylvania this past year. Many of Breakthrough’s Teaching Fellows are first-time lead teachers.
How did you get up to speed?
I was nervous going in initially, thinking that everyone would be so much more experienced than I. Thankfully we have mentors at Breakthrough. Adam Hotek was my Instructional Coach and mentor. He oversaw all of my lesson planning, observed me in the classroom, met with me a couple of times every week to talk about what I wanted to improve on and what I felt was going well. It was extremely helpful and I just think the world of Adam; he effortlessly guided me, knew the right things to say and what I needed to do. Another critical support was my co-teacher and grade team. We’d have daily and weekly meetings to talk through what we were noticing with certain students, or where we were lacking and might need some extra support.
What skills did you learn from Breakthrough that you apply in your classrooms today?
I learned how to pace my lessons, make room for silly side conversations and then return to focusing on content. Learning how to manage classroom time was really important for me, especially in my studentteaching and other experiences I’ve had since Breakthrough. Also, seeing the same kids every single day helped me form deeper connections, and so I figured out how to create boundaries, how to form student connections and still be a safe person, while letting them know someone is there to help them succeed.
So, what’s happened since your residency at Breakthrough?
I graduated from Temple and applied to the University of Pennsylvania for grad school, which offered an urban teaching apprenticeship program. I earned my teaching certificate as well as Master’s degree from Penn and graduated last May. While at Penn, I was a student teacher for the entire year at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber. It was the first time that I was putting together entire unit plans and structuring daily lessons, but also making phone calls home and holding parent teacher conferences. I got so much out of it – we also started a book club, soccer club, and even a girls’ lunch. I’m at Science Leadership Academy’s Middle School (SLAMS) this Fall, teaching Humanities in the fifth and sixth grades.
Do you stay in touch with your Breakthrough Teaching Fellow cohort?
A fair amount (of Teaching Fellows) went into first-year teaching positions, some here in Philadelphia. It’s nice to have a network of people I can text with questions!
Azure, Breakthrough wishes you the best as you embark on your full-time teaching role at SLAMS!