By: Kaela LeBlanc-Palmer
Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow, SJS Summer 2022

Passion is Non-Negotiable
As I began my path toward a career in education, I made a promise to myself, and ultimately to every child I would encounter in my classroom: I would assure them that they would leave with a sense of passion. This feeling would not be exclusive to just one subject, as their passion could be for English Literature, Reading, Writing, or even for the feeling of accomplishment they’d get as they mastered a subject. I couldn’t wait to impact my students by encouraging their focus on passionate learning. 

Breakthrough Provides a New Take on Learning: Social Emotional Learning
In the first two weeks of a Teaching Fellow’s summer with Breakthrough Houston, we attend a series of Professional Development lectures which are geared toward BTH’s values and purpose. One particularly impactful lecture was the one on how to teach Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). At BTH, we would learn how to integrate and emphasize a child’s ability to grow in both their academic abilities, and their personal abilities as well. 

Once our students had arrived and classes started, I was able to witness the true impact that this approach had on our kids’ ability to grow inside and outside of the classroom.  

Education Means More Than Test Scores
I know that as a future educator, I will use the lessons BTH taught me as the standard in my classroom. By sharing morning visions each day and integrating cultural knowledge into classroom content, I will be able to connect with my students in a deeper and more thoughtful way.

As an English Literature major, it brings me so much joy to see student immerse themselves in the world of reading like I love to, but it brings me even more joy to see them have a passion for mastering content. 

The Joy of Mastery
As many middle school teachers know, and I now know after a summer of teaching ELA to rising 7th graders, teaching eleven and twelve year olds can feel like a challenge at times. However, as the summer progressed, I saw a change in my kids as they internalized the growth mindset that Breakthrough lives by. They may not all love reading or be writers in the future, but they developed a love for mastering content and improving their ELA skills.

Before I had even considered education as my career path, I had been told time and time again by those who knew me best that teaching is a calling, and that it was mine. My Breakthrough summer proved that for me. I had my best “aha!” moments in the classroom this summer knowing my kids finally began to believe in themselves and their capacity to grow. 

Remove the Pressure; Watch Them Thrive. 
Students thrive when they have role models to look up to who instill growth mindsets and a love of learning within them. The more students begin to believe in themselves and are engaged in learning, the better they will do academically. If we, as educators, are given the capacity to connect the content to our students’ lived experiences, to present intelligence as a strength and not a weakness, our students will realize their potential in the academic world. 

Breakthrough Houston changes lives by helping students holistically. The feeling of “Breakthrough Love” is one that is all-encompassing, compassionate, and unwavering in its support. This bond between Teaching Fellows, students, Teaching Assistants, Office Aides, the Admin Team, and so many others is made possible by the learning environment pillared upon a belief that we cannot assist a child in becoming their best self by aiding them only in their academic pursuits, but also through their character and their community. 

Kaela LeBlanc-Palmer taught 7th grade writing at BTH’s St. John’s School site this summer. She led the “BTH Reflected” newsletter and website elective. She is a rising senior at the University of Houston – Downtown, and will graduate with her Bachelor’s in English Literature and Philosophy in 2023. Her hobbies include prose writing and fashion. She loves spending time in the classroom, and along with BTH, has taught for iEducate USA, Alief ISD, and she currently works with Spring Branch ISD. 

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