Avery heard about Breakthrough as an undergrad in the Dual Degree in Teacher Preparation Program at the University of San Francisco. He had just decided to leave USF’s nursing track, and was looking for confirmation that education was the right path for him. Avery volunteered for two semesters in Breakthrough’s after-school program, getting his first hands-on experience working with students, and was accepted to join our teacher residency in the summer of 2015.
“The whole six weeks affirmed that this was what I wanted to do,” Avery recalls. “Breakthrough really leveraged what I was learning in school at the time. It was very much ‘theory meets practice,’ a real six week teaching experience – going to department meetings, meeting with mentors, collaborating with other teachers, it was everything that I needed to know. I just fell in love with it.”
Not everything came naturally that summer – it took work to build his organizational skills and teacher presence and hone his classroom procedures. But Avery was conscientious about implementing feedback and leaving his comfort zone, and improved continuously.
Avery completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USF, and the following fall began work at Abraham Lincoln High School here in San Francisco. He currently teaches 10th grade English and 11th grade American Literature, while serving as English Department Head and helping to launch the school’s new Public Health Pathway. He strives to ensure his curriculum reflects his students’ identities and explores issues that affect their lives, such as using A Raisin in the Sun to discuss gentrification, or The Hate U Give to discuss police brutality. Above all, he wants his students to strengthen their self-love, their advocacy skills, and their ownership over their own education.
During the incredible challenge that was the COVID pandemic, Avery adapted his instructional program. He spent hours making videos for his students, drawing on his video editing skills, and got trained in Nearpod, an ed tech platform that allows for virtual student-teacher interaction. He made recordings of the readings for his students to use as ebooks. Even now that the district has returned for in-person learning, he continues to draw upon those innovations and to look for ways to refine his practice.
Avery still stays in touch with some of his former students at Breakthrough, now high school and college students, and, on occasion, his cohort of Teaching Fellows. “It’s really beautiful to follow how a lot of us have gone on to pursue something that pushed the boundaries of education,” he says. “I feel very rooted in what I learned at Breakthrough. It’s a timeless experience that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”