|Kyle van Leer
BTM Teacher 2011, 2012
A Breakthrough Teacher Reminisces
Kyle van Leer taught at Breakthrough Manchester for two summers as an undergraduate at Yale University.
In His Own Words:
Sometimes, the greatest gift that teachers give to students is a belief in themselves, in their own abilities and their own potential.
In my second summer teaching at Breakthrough, I vividly recall working one-on-one with a quiet student who struggled with math. Despite daily practice, skill drills and trying her hardest, she made slow progress on mastering the ability to correctly complete one hundred multiplication problems in five minutes. Day after day, disappointment and frustration were written on her face as she fell short of the goal, and she rarely smiled. It was difficult to watch her struggle, but she persisted.
Each day I would grade her most recent attempt, and she would study my face looking for any inkling of a mistake or missed answer. I will never forget the day she achieved her goal. I looked up and smiled broadly, and I watched her face light up with joy and pride. The sense of accomplishment was visceral; her hard work and persistence had paid off not only in correct answers but also in self-belief, mutual trust and optimism. While math remained difficult, her newfound confidence was evident in her smiles and laughter in the hall and in her participation and voice in class.
For the first time, I learned on a personal level that students will push themselves to their limit, take risks and try new things when they understand just how much you care about them and when you jointly celebrate their academic and social achievements. Breakthrough's unique model of students teaching students solidified this learning for me, confirmed my interest in education and has made me a better teacher today.
Books about good teaching inevitably say that an important foundation of a teacher's work rests on their positive relationships with students. What those teaching books fail to demonstrate, however, is the massive impact such a positive relationship will leave with
you, the adult.
Come to think of it, sometimes the greatest gift that students give to teachers is a belief in themselves, in their own abilities and their own potential.
Kyle currently teaches
mathematics to 120
seventh grade students at the
Wright Science and Technology Academy,
Chelsea Public Schools in Chelsea, Massachusetts. After graduating from Yale, Kyle subsequently earned an M.Ed. from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.