By: Erica Barnes

Current Breakthrough Houston Teaching Fellow at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center (GLEC); Breakthrough Atlanta Teaching Fellow, Summer 2018


How did we get here?

Last summer, I left the Hot Peach City, also known as Atlanta, GA, on July 25, 2018, after finishing up my first summer teaching with Breakthrough. I remember the feeling of driving down the highway like it was yesterday. Physically, I was drained of energy and knew that sleep deprivation was not a far stretch; mentally, I was overwhelmed from countless late nights of relearning 8th grade math skills to be the best teacher for my students. Although these feelings were strong and, some may say should be enough to keep any sane person away from another internship, the internal gratitude and love that I felt for Breakthrough and my students were MORE than enough to bring me back for a second go-around! After researching the sites and homestay options Breakthrough Houston offers, I knew a second summer with Breakthrough was meant to be, and I applied to BTH for the summer of 2019.


Are we there yet?

From the beginning, I knew that the processes of Breakthrough Houston and Breakthrough Atlanta would be slightly different. Last summer, I applied late, so I did a phone interview and was elated when I got the email offer to move forward! However, once my application passed through this year, I had to create a teaching video…complete with a CHANT created by ME. Yes, you read that right, a chant! I called my mother immediately. Within ten minutes, we had a chant made to the instrumental “Da-Butt” by E.U. After gathering four of my mentees and preparing a practice lesson, I was ready! Next step, a video call with the Program Director. I originally scheduled an interview with JoAnna Duncan (the GLEC Site Director) and rushed home after an organization meeting, not realizing that my 7 p.m. was her 6 p.m. until ten minutes of looking at a blank screen had passed. It was time for me to take one, two, or even three chill pills. I knew that this opportunity was meant for me, and it was time for me to claim it as mine! On February 7th, my second summer became official! I was sitting in class when I saw the email, and it took every ounce of self-control in me to not jump up out of my seat.


And, we are back!

Although I am an English major, the adventurous part of me went for the Pre-Algebra Teaching Fellow position once again. It was comforting to know that, although this would be another challenging time for me, I had done this last summer, so it shouldn’t be too different. At least that is what I thought. During our first event, the Teacher Welcome Dinner, I scanned the room which was filled with other BTH Teacher Fellows, and I knew this was going to be a contrast from my previous summer in Atlanta. Breakthrough Houston has three sites, and the site I was placed within is the newest to the BTH community. BTH at Gregory-Lincoln Education Center opened up THIS summer with an inaugural class of 60 rising 7th graders and 12 Teaching Fellows–along with Instructional Coaches, Teaching Assistants, a Dean of Students, and Program Director. At first, I was nervous, but together, we have transformed into a small but mighty group!

Now that we are four weeks in, I appreciate the force that is to be reckoned with at BTH GLEC. We have formed a family within this founder summer and are setting the bar high for those teachers and students who come afterwards. This summer, I have learned that what you believe you want is not always what you need. The love for educating the younger generations and advocating for equal opportunities among our youth can be seen at any Breakthrough site! But it is the small pieces that I needed as an individual educator that I have received and will continue to receive at the BTH GLEC location. 

Thank you, Ms. JoAnna, for seeing the leader in me. Thank you to my IC, John, for constantly supporting me. Thank you to every Teacher Fellow and Admin team member who constantly pushes me to lean into discomfort and picks me up on the days even when they do not know that I am down. Last but not least, thank you to my students for being the lights that shine so bright towards my future and the future of this world. 



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