Susan M. Blum Teaching Excellence Award 2016 Winners

In December 2015, the Breakthrough New York community lost Susan Blum, a lifelong educator and BTNY advocate. She was a professional educator at The Professional Children's School, Little Red Schoolhouse, and the Town School. A founding BTNY board member, Susan was also a staunch supporter of ours and deeply committed to our Students Teaching Students model as a pathway to creating the next generation of teachers.

As a tribute to her passion, dedication, and commitment to BTNY's mission, we created the Susan M. Blum Teaching Excellence Award to be awarded to a Teaching Fellow at each middle school site who demonstrated the most excellence in teaching or growth as an educator during the summer session. At Celebration, our end of summer event, the recipient was presented with the award in front of their site's staff, students, and BTNY families.

Each winner shared their summer experience teaching with BTNY and what receiving the Susan Blum award means to them. We are pleased to share with you what they had to say, and hope you find it as inspiring as we do.

Yesenia Ayala

Grinell College

7th Grade Writing Teaching Fellow

Being a 7th grade writing teacher and Grade Team Leader this summer was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.  Every lesson, every family time,  every opportunity that I had to get to know my students taught me a life lesson that I would not change for anything in this world.  At first, I was nervous of how to be the best teacher and leader I could possibly be.  That suddenly stopped being a fear when the BTNY community welcomed me with love and gave me the opportunity to earn their respect.  I am beyond honored to be a recipient of the Susan Blum Teaching Excellence Award as it serves as a symbol of my passion of working with others to narrow the education gap among low-income communities.  I will take my experiences, the skills I have developed, and every story that inspired me this summer back to school with me as I am certain they will continue to serve as an inspiration for many others.  As a Grinnell college student and Los Angeles posse scholar, I am beyond grateful for my BTNY summer experience as it has fueled me to continue my career in education and social justice.


Alicia Hamilton

Harvard College

7th Grade Math Teaching Fellow

My summer at Breakthrough New York gave me a taste of the challenges and joys that come with teaching. I grew so much as a person and professional over the course of the summer and had the opportunity to build close bonds with incredible teachers, students, and staff. I am so honored to have been recognized for my work this summer and I am grateful to the BTNY team for making this achievement possible. My time at Breakthrough has solidified my commitment to work in the field of education and has made me even more passionate to begin my future as an educator!

Emily Palermo

Colgate University

9th Grade Literature Teaching Fellow

I feel incredibly humbled and honored to be recognized as the winner of the Susan M. Blum Teaching Excellence Award.  Prior to working at BTNY, I had never felt such a level of comfortability in a job.  My most fond experience this summer was definitely the dynamic I had with students during Advisory.  I loved learning about what my students were excited and nervous for in high school. I really felt as though we were able to foster an environment where my four students supported and pushed each other to think about getting involved in high school and performing to their best abilities academically.  Breakthrough does an amazing job of holding  Teaching Fellows accountable while giving them constructive praises and prompts that help us improve our teaching daily.  I came into this experience unsure if teaching was the profession I should pursue, but I have no doubt after my experience this summer that it is what I feel happiest doing.