Victoria Chen

Brown University
Breakthrough Teacher, Summer 2010

My name is Victoria “Miss Vicky” Chen, and I taught 7th grade Biology and a Social Justice and Leadership elective at St. Joseph’s University during the summer of 2010.  As a Neuroscience concentrator at Brown University, teaching may not have been the most obvious career path I could take, but after just a few education classes in college, I knew I had found my passion. To this day, I continue to feel ashamed that we, as a society, have cheated so many of our low-income, minority children of the opportunities and education they deserve. Ultimately, I hope to work towards enacting policies that would better aid educators in communities like Greater Philadelphia to better serve their students. Before working in policy, however, I knew that I first needed to get a better understanding of the reality and experiences of a classroom teacher, which is why I applied to Breakthrough.

After a wonderful – and life changing – summer with my students in Philadelphia, I am now about to continue my development as a teacher with Teach For America – Houston, teaching high school biology at Sharpstown High School.

If you ask anyone who knew me over the summer, they would tell you that I was obsessed with the Science Fair, which turned out to be both the greatest – and hardest – thing I have ever done. Collectively, the science teachers in my site wanted to inspire our students with inquiry-based learning and to challenge them to think and question “like scientists” in designing their own experiments. It was a long and arduous journey; every step from helping students define their initial questions of inquiry to refining procedures to creating a clear and consistent grading rubric involved intense collaboration and planning.  And – like almost everything in the teaching world – nothing (no instructions, no lesson plan, no assignment) was ever “perfect.”

If I learned nothing else from my eight weeks at Breakthrough, however, it would be this: In a profession where there is always MORE to do for your students, it is the little things that get you through the day and there is SO much strength in optimism. At Breakthrough, I was surrounded by such inspiring individuals, and everyone from the students in my classes, their families, my fellow teachers, and my Dean of Students and Site Directors had an infectious energy and excitement about them. To this day, I am in touch with many of the fine teachers I lesson planned with and the students I lesson planned for, and I know that it was our shared sense of commitment that made Breakthrough so rewarding.