For juniors and seniors pondering job and internship prospects for the upcoming summer, Kate Anderson ’18 has a strong recommendation: Apply to become a teacher for Breakthrough at Norfolk Academy.
“It was the best summer of my life!” Anderson told Upper School students of her experience last summer, as a language arts teacher. “Every moment was valuable.”
Anderson was joined at the podium in Johnson Theater (for the first post-snowstorm chapel) by Noa Greenspan ’18, who described the close relationships that arise from the nonstop enthusiasm generated by the teachers. Every morning, teachers gather as the buses pull up to the arch, greeting the Norfolk middle school students attending the 6-week academic enrichment program with cheers, chants, high-fives, and humorous song rewrites. For example, the risque lyrics of “Sexy and I Know It” got a total makeover to “I Do My Homework and I Know It.”
Beyond the humor and high-energy, there is serious business accomplished. The Breakthrough program prepares middle school students from Norfolk’s public schools for college preparatory courses in high school, said Ari Zito, Director of Breakthrough at Norfolk Academy and an Upper School English Teacher. These students come from families that could not afford a summer enrichment program, but students admitted to the program attend at no cost.
The majority of teachers in Breakthrough are college students interested in exploring education as a career, and they want a chance to immerse themselves fully in the day-to-day experience of teaching classes, leading extracurricular activities, and advising students. Breakthrough at Norfolk Academy, which is one of 24 sites in the Breakthrough Collaborative, opens a few teaching spots to highly qualified juniors and seniors. “It is eye-opening and life-changing,” Zito said.
Jennifer Rodgers ’97, who joined the program last year as assistant director and is a longtime English teacher at Norfolk Academy, said that student teachers find that the summer proves enlightening about the professional challenges of teaching. They are often surprised by the emotional power of the summer. “It is like a family. We create a family atmosphere for these students, because we are together all day,” she said. “From the moment the students arrive, the teachers are singing at the top of their lungs. The students love it! They may not always look like they love it, but they do.”