A Day in the Life of a BTH Teacher:
Summer 2018 Teacher Blogs


Week One – Elliot Ross, returning BTH teacher

Once a minority student. Now a minority teacher.

If you walk into St. John’s School around 5:00 PM during summer Breakthrough orientation week, you’ll be greeted by the sound of Teaching Fellows cheering in unison, “Why was today a great day? BECAUSE IT WAS A BREAKTHROUGH DAY!” But seldom is a Breakthrough day the same for all of its participants. While the Administration Committee and I are preparing our creatively composed skit about our diverse roles in the Breakthrough community, the Mental Health Committee is busy organizing a trip to an Astros game to alleviate the pressures of lesson planning that plague each of us Teaching Fellows. Meanwhile, the TA’s are frantically going over the summer’s lessons with Mrs. Collins to ensure a solid and structurally stable support system. So what is it about Breakthrough that seems to touch the hearts of so many Teacher Fellows (including myself!), especially during such a work-packed orientation week? It must be something in the coffee…

Why Breakthrough matters to me

As a second year Breakthrough teacher, nothing warmed my heart to the same degree as the occasional text I would receive from a handful of my former students while I was stuck, yet again, in the stressful and studious environment of UT Austin’s library—“Yo, Mr. E, I killed my geometry test today!”

When I shared my enthusiasm with my mom, a former principal of The Fay School, she smiled and said, “Remember that time you told me, ‘Mom, there is no way my goofy teaching style will ever impact these kids.’” My mother laughed, “Well, it did! Because none of these kids have ever had a teacher with the same ADHD, the same dyslexia, the same fascination for learning, and a similar ethnic background. As much as I hate to tell you this, my little Latino, pre-law student, you’re falling in love with teaching.” And right, she was!

Students need to see teachers that look like they do

Having been adopted into a multiracial family, I like to tell people I’m well educated in the field of diversity. But even with a Russian-born brother, African-American sister, Mexican brother, Jewish dad, and Christian mom, when compared to my Breakthrough Houston family, my family was barely scratching the surface of a seemingly infinite rainbow of people. Undoubtedly, I found myself right at home in the tie-dye environment of Breakthrough Houston.

For as long as I can remember, diversity has always mattered to me. Attending HISD schools K-12, the only teachers that ever looked like me were my Spanish teachers, and occasionally that one teacher that was moved from the language department to the science department. A huge part of why I joined the Breakthrough team was to tell these students: “Hey, listen. I know you might not be a math person; you might not be a serious reader, but you have always been a minority, just like me. And whether you realize it already or not, the world needs us. Not because we add more flavor to the food when it’s bland, not because we can translate for the people standing in line at Target, and certainly not to add color to institutions that lack it. The world needs us so we can set the new standard of what it means to be a minority: college bound, goal driven, resilient, to actualize the dream that thousands and thousands of our parents have, and to pass on that dream to the next generation of students of all colors.”

So for me, a Breakthrough day is a day that changes what it means to be a minority student – and now a minority teacher – however big or small that change may be. I know that with each year I come back, there will be one more generation of brilliant young minds scattered across the world changing what it means to be a person of color. And that is what makes every day such a great Breakthrough day!!

Want to help teachers like Elliot reach more students? Click here to learn about Breakthough’s mission, and click here to make a donation.