There aren’t many 13-year-olds who ask for more homework, but then most 13-year-olds aren’t as determined to succeed as those taught by two Macalester students.
Those Mac students— Susie Puican ’12 (Chicago) and Chioma Chukwumah ’13 (Lagos, Nigeria)—taught seventh grade science for Breakthrough St. Paul and found the experience “Amazing,” says Puican. “I loved it.”
Breakthrough St. Paul, a year-round program for highly motivated St. Paul middle-schoolers from at-risk backgrounds, is designed to help these kids do well in honors coursework and get to college.
But it’s also designed to attract a diverse pool of talented college students to the field of education, and that’s where Puican and Chukwumah came in. Puican, a neuroscience major who has “always wanted to be a teacher,” also taught journalism, since Breakthrough students take one elective along with a core class in English, math, social studies, or science.
Student teachers have mentors and “lots of other support,” says Puican, and pick their own topics. She taught evolution along with various transferable skills such as lab work, note-taking, and science terminology.
Chukwumah, a biology major who focused her class on cell biology, appreciated “traveling back in time to touch base with my inner seventh grade self.” She also enjoyed doing the outdoor activities, such as dodgeball and football, with the kids. For her elective class, Chukwumah taught a dance course she dubbed “Royal African Grooving.”
The kids in the Breakthrough program are something special, both Mac students agree. “I did more learning than teaching,” says Chukwumah.
Notes Puican, “I was surprised by how nice a relationship you can create with a seventh grader…how much they look up to you and feed off your energy—they really grab it all.”
She liked it so well she hopes to work there again next summer.
Chukwumah is among Macalester's Davis United World College Scholars