Our very own Dana Biederman, Head Teacher-in-Residence at Slide Ranch, was recently invited to present at a Breakthrough panel in San Francisco to discuss with other industry leaders and emerging educators the "Alternative to the Classroom."

Dana teaching children at Slide Ranch

Dana teaching children at Slide Ranch

Breakthrough San Francisco supports young people on the path to college and trains outstanding college students for education careers. Founded in 1993, they are a community involvement initiative of San Francisco Day School and one of two dozen national affiliates of Breakthrough Collaborative. http://www.breakthroughsf.org

This special event took place on July 21 at the San Francisco Day School library. Alongside other panelists, Dana presented and took questions from 32 intern teachers ages 18-35 who are currently involved in the Breakthrough program. Some were current college students or had recently graduated this Spring, and all were actively exploring a career in education. The Breakthrough teaching internship is a way for young adults to get their feet wet in the classroom, but also to learn about the larger world of education. The panel aimed to give a sense of the wide range of possibilities associated with education, and Dana was invited to represent Slide Ranch and the perspective of an environmental educator.

"I got involved because I was honored to speak about a topic I feel so passionate about and was excited to be a part of an event that was about empowering young educators."

Dana was joined by panelists Alton Nelson, CEO at Making Waves Academy, Dr. Bedford Palmer II, Assistant Professor in the Counseling Department at St. Mary's of Moraga, Fernando Enciso-Marquez, Coordinator of Community Partnerships, USF McCarthy Center, and Maribel Sainez, Program Manager at Bay Area Aspire Public Schools.

The panelists gave advice about career paths, and how they became interested in education revealing what path they took to get to where they are now. They also talked about what spurred them to move out of the classroom, how they make their programs relevant to the diverse communities they serve and critically, and what makes a good teacher.

"Deep listening, meeting people where they are and considering different perspectives, and finding the places where concepts come alive are qualities I feel make a good educator. I encouraged the teachers to reflect on the programs they teach and to think critically about the experience; what things went well, what would you do differently, and how did the experience impact you as a teacher? I also believe in self-improvement to help us develop as teachers: having compassion, leaning into situations that are uncomfortable as a way to learn, and examining what you hold to be true."

The panelists also discussed what their vision was for an ideal education system and what they would like to be remembered for as a teacher at the end of their career.

"My ideal education system is one where students learn through tangible projects, observation of natural systems, and is inclusive of all learning styles."

"I would like to be remembered for work I have done with Food Justice- through education and finding ways to make healthy and sustainable food an accessible choice."

Dana deeply enjoyed hearing the thought-provoking questions posed by the teachers and was really impressed with the dedication and attentiveness shown by the entire group.

"Even though we work in different sectors of education we have similar goals--dedication to our jobs and the desire to cultivate thriving education systems, communities, and world."

As an organization that firming believes in Planting Kids in Nature and hands-on, experiential education, we were delighted to be part of this discussion.

We hope to collaborate with the Breakthrough Program in the future and continue fostering connections with people who have a passion for the field of education in all forums, both inside the classroom and in the outdoor classroom.

Thank you Breakthrough San Francisco for inviting us to be a part of this inspiring an productive panel.

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AuthorEmily Haber
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