Teaching Fellows

Breakthrough’s success rests on our unique “students-teaching-students” model. Ambitious and service-minded undergraduate students from all over the country serve as teachers and mentors to our middle/early high school students during our year round programs.

Who do we look for?

In order to provide the high-quality relationship building and learning that our children deserve, Breakthrough Birmingham’s Teaching Fellow positions are highly selective and competitive. We are constantly seeking talented college students who think creatively, demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow, believe that every child can learn at a high level, and persevere in the face of challenges. Applicants should feel comfortable working in a collaborative, fast-paced environment.

The fellowship is for undergraduates of any major, whether they intend to pursue a career in education or not. We seek applicants with a deep interest in social justice and a love of working with students. Applicants from varied backgrounds and experiences are important essential for the success of our program.

What do Teaching Fellows do?

Teaching Fellows have the primary contact with Breakthrough students during programs and are therefore pivotal in our students’ Breakthrough experience. We recruit the most talented and dedicated college students in the US to come to Birmingham and serve our community. In order to create a meaningful teaching experience, our Teaching Fellows are coached by veteran educators, trained and oriented in both culture building, instructional techniques, and behavior management prior to teaching. Then, they are given continuous reflection opportunities and ongoing feedback in order to improve leadership and teaching skills.

What do Teaching Fellows gain?

Our undergraduate Teaching Fellows complete the fellowship as leaders who are better prepared to make a difference. They develop skills as pre-service teachers, role models, and educational leaders and advocates. Fellows become part of an effective team working to address the most pressing issues in education. Not only do they have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on middle school children, but they also gain hands-on leadership and educational training. Breakthrough fellows explore and work to address social issues and together learn what is means to be a community of diverse individuals working toward common goals. During the nine-week residency, Breakthrough Teaching Fellows receive over 100 hours of teaching and leadership training, and 75 hours of lead classroom experience. Teaching Fellows have the opportunity to practice skills that prepare them for the classroom or other professional settings.

Breakthrough has really shown me that it is possible to see growth in scholars in just a few weeks if the education system is intentional in its work. The amount of growth I witnessed from my scholars was refreshing, and it inspired me to think of more solution-based actions that we as a community, and we as a country can incorporate into our education systems. Being at Breakthrough helped me understand the importance of representation in the classroom, because being able to see someone who looks like you and may have come from the same background as you in a position of success can be a powerful thing to young minds. It can really help shape their mindset, and as a result, can even help motivate some students to work on setting goals for themselves.

Summer 2022 Teaching Fellow


Breakthrough gives you a chance to develop yourself but, most importantly, develop tomorrow’s leaders.

Summer 2022 Fellow


[Breakthrough] is a worthwhile experience to learn more about the field of education and learn about your passions as an individual. The connections made through the program are ones that will last a lifetime.

Summer 2022 Fellow


Mariohn Michel | Executive Director

Mariohn joined Breakthrough Birmingham in 2018 after working in urban and rural education spaces. She spent four years at a NYC school where she has been a data analyst, testing/program coordinator, social studies department chair, and teacher. Dissecting the story assessment data told was a stepping stone for her to find creative solutions to classroom differentiation, curriculum design and execution, and programming efficacy. Prior to that, she was a 2011 Teach for America corps member where she spent three years as a high school social studies teacher in rural Alabama, which fostered her love of the state and its unique culture. Mariohn graduated magna cum laude from Florida International University with a B.S. in Secondary Social Studies Education. She currently serves on the Teach for America Alabama Alumni Board. In her free time, she can be found hiking, reading, and traveling.

Liora Chessin | Program Director

Prior to joining the Breakthrough team, Liora Chessin worked in both public and private schools as well as the nonprofit sector. Liora started her career in education in rural North Carolina as a part of Teach For America. Liora taught 12th grade English and started the school’s first Advancement Placement English Literature course. Liora most recently taught middle school English and history in a Birmingham-area school where she organized a Professional Learning Community for the faculty and created the student-run Leadership Through Library program. Liora also worked as the school’s Director of Admissions and Communications building relationships with stakeholders and families. Liora has managed a state-wide college access program, worked in various marketing positions, and designed diverse curricula including middle school humanities and social justice education. Liora also recently finished her Masters in Education from Brandeis University in Massachusetts with a specialty in Teacher Leadership. Liora has a B.A. in English from the Ohio State University’s Honors College where she graduated summa cum laude. 

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