Nathan Austria’19

I am from Memphis. It is one of the poorest and crime ridden cities in America. Despite this, the energy and culture of this city is compelling. We pride ourselves on being a blue collar town. “Grit and Grind” is our motto, and one worn proudly by our basketball team. Though Memphis certainly has its struggles, it is this pervasive sense of determination to persevere that has shaped my aspirations for the future. When I have considered these aspirations I am seeking work that I will find fulfilling and I believe that work for me lies in education.

I have been fortunate to receive an offer to be a Teaching Fellow with Breakthrough Collaborative at its San Francisco site. San Francisco is certainly not Memphis. Yet, the urban population I will be serving is quite similar. Breakthrough Collaborative works to identify high-potential students from low-income and/or minority backgrounds. Their goal is to create a college pipeline and have higher educational outcomes than what they might have had without this program. Notably Breakthrough students attend college 10% above the national average.

My position this summer requires me to commit my days to teaching, curriculum planning, student advising, event planning, grading, as well as taking part in meetings and fielding phone calls. The hours will certainly be long, but I believe this organization provides the greatest insight for an undergraduate to experience life as a teacher. I consider this opportunity invaluable in determining my steps beyond this program. Learning the operations of Breakthrough and gaining hands-on experience in the classroom I think will prove beneficial to learning more about programs that work in urban education as well as provide me greater insight into the type of education environment I wish to be a part of.

I want to work in education because I have always enjoyed the ability to have teaching moments. I feel being in a teaching position puts oneself in the mindset of always learning. Working this past year with Exploration School gave me the opportunity to begin my first attempts teaching courses to students. Going to Copenhagen gave me the opportunity to study the Danish education system and shadow a middle-school teacher for an entire semester. These experiences have not been lost on me. I have been working to learn from as diverse of an array of educational programs as possible. Through the aforementioned and a variety of others not, I realized my passion of learning lies in learning how to help others learn.

As a product of private and public education I have seen that both often fail the inner-city population. I saw this most significantly in my public high school’s de facto segregation with academic tracking. Essentially, test scores have been dictating who is capable of higher educational outcomes, which in turn spurs numerous other social and economic issues. The urban population is of the highest need and lowest resourced. It is ultimately my hope to form a program that can help realize the potential of each and every student that takes part.