Izzy Rutkey is a rising senior at Hamilton College (Class of 2022), where she is majoring in Sociology and minoring in History and Education Studies. Before teaching with Breakthrough New York, she planned on having a career in early childhood education. She now wants to be a middle school teacher and is currently applying for graduate school for secondary education programs. Fun fact: she also owns a baking business called Izzie’s Sweet Treats!

How did you hear about Breakthrough and why did you apply?
My older sister’s college roommate did Breakthrough Twin Cities years ago. I’d been wanting to be a teacher for a while. Breakthrough New York stood out to me in particular because it is a ten-year program. I just really love the commitment that Breakthrough New York has to its students with helping them get in and through high school, and then again with getting in and through college. Even after graduation you’re still part of the family forever. It was my top choice. I’m very lucky to have had this opportunity.

Congratulations on winning the Susan M. Blum Teaching Excellence Award! How does it feel to be an awardee?
Knowing that this was my first time ever really teaching and that I’ve made an impact on my students was awesome. I was so happy and super grateful to be acknowledged for how much I loved this program and my students. It was truly a blessing and I felt like I could share my award with the other Teaching Assistants.

What was it like working with Breakthrough middle schoolers?
It was really great because my advisory was only three students and my elective, which was theater, was only six students. So I was able to really interact one-on-one with a lot of them. It was just great to have a personal connection with students and see them interact with each other. I was at the Brooklyn site and those students were all super close with one another. Seeing their friendships form and also being a part of that community with them was super special.

The fact that they are going above and beyond and doing this program in addition to their normal school work is already admirable. And they’re doing it with a smile on their face with dedication and joy. Not only are they all friends, they’re great students and I think it was really a special group to work with this summer.

Is there something that speaks to you about the Breakthrough New York mission?
Yes. I’m from upstate New York and was really lucky that all the schools in the area are really excellent. I have been so fortunate to have such a great education my whole life. Unfortunately, this is just not a reality for all students. It’s definitely something that has to change. Every student deserves and has the right to a high quality education. Breakthrough is such a special program because it recognizes that there are excellent students who don’t have the right resources to help them reach their fullest potential. At Breakthrough, we’re saying that every student deserves a high quality education, as well as academic and personal support, and we’re providing it.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining the Breakthrough community?
I think that for anyone who wants to be a teacher, they should really consider Breakthrough at least for one summer. Not only is it an excellent opportunity to grow as a teacher, but I think it’s also really makes you think about how much of a role your interpersonal relationships and community play in your teaching. It isn’t just about delivering the material, it really is how you connect to every individual student and Breakthrough really emphasize getting to know your advisory students and looking at their growth. You also learn a lot of teaching skills at Breakthrough. Having the opportunity to work with my Instructional Coach and do lesson trial runs and get feedback was great. You’re growing and helping the students grow at the same time. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. I mean one of the other Teaching Assistants, Adina, is going to be a best friend for life now! The opportunity for friendship with coworkers is outstanding. We’re all good friends. We have a Teaching Assistant group chat and we’re starting a book club now! It’s great with the students and the coworkers. You really can’t go wrong.

Fill in the blank: Breakthrough is _____
Breakthrough is a life changing experience for college students who are hoping to be good educators and strong advocates. For students who want to go the extra mile in their education, Breakthrough is a life changing experience — plus you make amazing friends!

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