Every day as a teacher, I aim to live up to my guiding principle from Breakthrough: Demand as much from myself as I demand from my students. I can’t ask my students to get better if I’m not getting better too.
– Anjali (pictured above)
I sometimes wonder, if it weren’t for Breakthrough, where would I be right now?
But more often I wonder, if it weren’t for Breakthrough… where would my 6th graders be right now? They attended a failing elementary school that was shut down. Their odds of making it through high school, much less to college, were slim. Who would be educating them and believing in them? How would Joseph have learned to read instead of memorizing lessons, hiding that he can’t string even 3rd grade level words together in his mind’s eye? When would Tanasia have stumbled upon her own talents as a writer, had she not been given the keys to unlock and enjoy Twain and Orwell and Neruda?
I’m in my second year teaching 6th grade English to 54 students at UP Academy in Boston. It is not easy. And I am incredibly thankful that I cut my teeth on teaching at Breakthrough the summers of 2009 and 2010. When I showed up for training, I was just another passionately over-achieving and stubbornly idealistic college junior who was “good with kids”. That first Breakthrough summer was a deep dive into urban teaching. It changed my life, and now it’s changing the lives of dozens and dozens of kids.
My Breakthrough training helped me hit the ground running as a professional teacher. I knew how to grab and hold the attention of middle schoolers by embracing their seemingly boundless energy. I knew how to plan a lesson that ensured every student accomplished an important learning objective. And, maybe most importantly, I was hungry for every chance to improve my practice. At Breakthrough, our Instructional Coaches forced me to reflect, to change, and to improve. Teachers owe that to all of their students.
Recently, my Dean commented that I teach like a fourth year veteran, not the second year teacher I am. I am grateful that Breakthrough helped me bypass the hardest part of my first years as a teacher so that my students benefit. In fact, last year, we doubled the number of 6th graders who scored Proficient on their MCAS. I am proud that my students made some of the biggest gains in the state!
I hope that you’ll give generously to Breakthrough this year. You can ensure that more students have teachers with the passion, training and skills nurtured at Breakthrough. They deserve no less.
Anjali Nirmalan | 6th Grade English Teacher, UP Academy (Boston)
MATCH Teacher Residency '10; Breakthrough Teacher '09, '10; Tufts University '10