Hi, my name is Raksmeymony Yin, but you can call me Mr. Rex. I graduated this past May from Gettysburg College with a bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Studies through Education and English. I am from Philadelphia, PA and this is my second summer as the Literature Department Head. I am teaching 7th and 8th grade Literature, an independent 7th grade Literature class, and a Multicultural Arts Club.
I stumbled across Breakthrough last year while I was “Facebook stalking” and saw that a friend was a “Teacher at Breakthrough Collaborative.” I went to Breakthrough’s website and found that there was a Breakthrough Philadelphia. I applied, went through the long application process, still wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, and then got accepted. Little did I realize that this summer job would change my life.
What inspired me to pursue education and apply to Breakthrough’s Teacher Residency program was my personal experiences in education and in America. Education means a lot to everyone. It’s especially important to me as a product of the Philadelphia public schools, as a child of a low-income family, and as a first-generation Cambodian immigrant. I attended public schools in Philadelphia and experienced firsthand the budget cuts, the lack of high-quality teachers, having fewer school counselors, reading used textbooks, and not having enough resources to prepare for college and beyond. In addition to my struggles in education, there are other struggles going on around me: My mother works 12-16 hour shifts in a factory and is unable to take English language classes because of her schedule. My father retired when I was in sixth grade and was robbed in front of our home. My big sister worked full-time while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. Oh yea, I’m a triplet and that kind of put my parents in an interesting situation. The third-grade students I tutored struggled with reading and did not have English-speaking parents. The brother of the African American fifth-grade girl in my church was shot, leaving her without an older sibling. The boys without fathers who wished for positive male role models in their lives. The examples are endless.
But what I saw in my community was only the surface. The structure surrounding me influenced what I saw. Educational policies and programs overlook Cambodians (and others who do not meet the “model minority” stereotype) because data on Asian American students are aggregated and fail to display the ethnic diversity of the Asian population. The Philadelphia public schools are under-funded, over-crowded, and lack resources for students from first-generation backgrounds. Families are unable to get out of poverty or low-income situations because they lack the financial capital, education, or connections. It is thus important to acknowledge the structure that is influencing the statistics we read and the lives that underlie them.
I’m not pursuing a career in education because I like kids or that I am a good teacher. I’m in education because I want to face challenges and solve problems in our society. At Breakthrough, teacher spends hours and hours perfecting their lessons, many sleepless nights grading homework and responding to students’ questions, and figuring out the perfect outfit for Wacky Wednesday. Breakthrough teachers are young excited college students who are looking for ways to make a difference in world. Breakthrough students are highly-motivated future leaders striving for excellence and accomplishing milestones that no other students are accomplishing. Breakthrough staffs are determined and dedicated members of the world who tirelessly to ensure that everything runs smoothly like a brand new car.
Breakthrough has shaped my life in so many ways. As a result of my experience last summer, I decided to focus on middle school/middle level education. For my senior research capstone, I conducted research on Cambodian middle school students’ academic pathways and aspirations. I continued to serve my community through educational program coordinating and management. This upcoming August, I will be starting my first real-life, post-college job at East Camden Middle School serving as the Site Coordinator for EducationWorks. I will be overseeing the out-of-school time program, volunteer and staff management, and community outreach. Thanks to Breakthrough, I believe I am able to take on any challenge, and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change I wish to see in the world.