By: Brian Rivera
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow at Connect, Summer 2019
My Favorite Teacher
College graduation is less than one year away for me and, when I reflect on how I arrived at this point, I recognize I would not be in this position without the remarkable teachers and mentors I had throughout middle and high school. In high school, I met one of the most dedicated and wisest teachers I have ever known, Olvin Carias.
Mr. Carias (aka Mr. C) was a well-established calculus and statistics teacher who–not only believed in my academic abilities–but believed in my classmates as well. Because of his efforts, our school’s academic strength was grounded in mathematics. Sure, we did well in other subjects, but the consistency and mastery we displayed in math was nothing short of incredible. Was this due to his efforts alone? Of course not, but the expectations that are often present in a school situated in a low-income neighborhood are difficult to fight against. Teachers have to constantly convince their students that their efforts are worth it and that, even though community statistics predict a majority of us will not attend college, we can be outliers. Mr. Carias, along with the rest of the staff, did just that.
A Lasting Impact
For the past five years, I have striven to have a similar impact in my community through various mentoring positions. Whether it was tutoring AP Physics at a local high school or mentoring incoming first-year students during my sophomore year, I found myself offering assistance wherever I could. Although I never spent more than a few years in these positions, I knew I was creating some impact. However, I never felt I reached the level of understanding with a student like I had with Mr. Carias. Enter Breakthrough Houston, which has provided the perfect setting to continue my pursuit.
I remember meeting my students on the first day and introducing myself as a college student from the small, cozy town of Northfield, Minnesota. Ten faces stared back at me in awe; most of them had never heard of my school or met someone from Minnesota. I took this initial interest and ran with it. Throughout the summer, I have tried to bring Mr. Carias’s enthusiasm and zest into my class. If I have to put on a magic act, so students can remember how electrons emit light, I’ll do it. If I have to lead the great “Beaver Call” to lift some spirits during groggy mornings, I’ll do it. I wake up every morning ready to go, inspired by Mr. Carias but also inspired by my motivated, talented, potential-filled students.
Breakthrough Houston students do not experience the typical teenage summer. Instead of being homework free, they have decided to put their energy into focusing on next year’s material. I don’t take their early morning sacrifices or full summer days for granted. I know my students appreciate the energy I bring into a classroom, and I love seeing their faces change from tired to excited over the course of a class.
An Unforgettable Summer
Immediately after graduating high school, I thought I would be on a set path to medical school, and I planned to take all the math and science courses necessary to reach that goal. However, after reading about Breakthrough some months back, I realized this was an experience I could not pass up, and I jumped at the opportunity to give back to my Houston community.
Breakthrough has brought out my strengths and highlighted my weaknesses with the sole purpose of improving them. The phenomenal work of the administrators, Instructional Coaches, and fellow Teaching Fellows has allowed me to be a dedicated mentor for my students. Although I will continuously aim to be a better mentor and teacher, I truly feel I am someone my students can rely on. I hope they will always know that Mr. Rivera wholeheartedly believes in their abilities… Thank You, Mr. C!
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