Teaching Fellow: Jessica Rodriguez

My name is Jessica Rodriguez, I am an upcoming senior at East Carolina University, in Greenville, NC. I am studying Middle Grades Education with a concentration in Social Studies and English.

I want to work with students that need to see people like them in leadership. People who have dark curly hair and brown skin, people who must put themselves through college, people who know what it is like to struggle. Education makes the difference in a person's life, and that is the reason it is one of my passions.

One thing that has surprised me so far is just how quickly I was able to assimilate into the role of "teaching fellow." Usually, I'm the type of person who needs time to adjust to new people and places, but Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia embraced me in its arms from day 1. I'm surprised I have been able to bond so quickly with the other teaching fellows and staff. It is really exciting knowing that it's possible to work with a team as great as the Drexel Middle School Team.

Teaching for Breakthrough requires a lot of dedication. The time commitment is incredible and the teaching fellows really love what they're doing in order to stay sane. Teaching fellows wear many "hats." We wear the teacher hat, the mentor hat, the friend hat, the event organizer hat, the decorator hat... so many hats.I did not think that I was capable of being so many different people; however, when 50+ kids are depending on you, whatever you do, you make it work. And with the support and training, you become better. Different students require different "hats" from me, but I try my best to adapt to whichever person they need. 

Even though we're only on week 3 of the program, I can say that all the teaching fellows at Drexel Middle School are emotionally invested in their students. "How can I get the students more engaged?" "How are we going to help this 7th grader get more organized?" "What can we do for the student who broke her arm and can't write?" Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia teaching fellows have really taken ownership of the program. The students are at the core and everyone on the team works so hard to make sure that their needs are met. That's one of the things I really love about this program; there is such dedication to the art of learning and the students. 

The best thing about Breakthrough is the opportunity given to the students and teaching fellows. Breakthrough gives students the chance to get ahead and learn skills not generally afforded to them. For me, Breakthrough has given me the opportunity to teach in a classroom, be a leader, and be a mentor, all within the same community. I did not expect to have the chance to grow in so many different ways. We still have some time left in the program, and in my time here, I have already grown so much.I feel like the strongest version of myself at Breakthrough.I was ready to feel burned out by this point, but my students, teaching fellows, and leadership all motivate me. The days are long, they are filled with so much purpose.