Michelle Palmer became executive director of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia in February 2021, the culmination of decades of work in the field of education. As a teacher and administrator at Germantown Friends School and other independent schools, Michelle works closely with students, faculty, and staff on strategic initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. Michelle is deeply committed to making education fair and accessible. To that end, she facilitates the Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity Project, and currently teaches a social justice course at Germantown’s upper school. She is a co-founder of the Germantown Friends School Alumni of Color program, and served as its first manager until 2020. In recent years, Michelle has shared her expertise and experience in this area by presenting at several prestigious education conferences around the country. Michelle has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Temple University, a master’s degree in Education and Instructional Technology from Arcadia University, and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from New School University.
What is something you have learned from your students?
Students learn when they have teachers that are enthusiastic and excited about what they are teaching. Also, I have learned that we can grow as educators when we intentionally meet students where they are in life. We must stay dynamic in our journey as educators to keep students engaged in their educational journey.
What was your favorite moment or experience in your own education?
My favorite part of my education was during my undergraduate years at Temple University. I interned at a local radio station and had the opportunity to learn all the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to produce a live radio show. It was hard work, and it gave me real-life experience in the studio and in the world of radio, television, and film.
What conditions do you think are necessary for a safe and effective learning environment?
Students need to be in an inviting classroom with teachers who are concerned with their overall well-being so they can have an effective learning environment. Students feel safe when they have teachers and mentors that they can depend on in many different ways. We must also remind students that they can always speak to their teachers about school and personal matters, and that they will be supported.
How do we ensure those without privilege have equal access to quality education and opportunity?
This is the mission of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia. We close the opportunity gap for middle school students through our year-round tuition-free high school preparation and academic enrichment program. Also, we need to hold schools accountable so that all students, regardless of their zip code, should receive a quality education. Our students need access to quality books, computers, educational tools, and teachers.