Jennifer Otremba is beginning her 6th year at Breakthrough Saint Paul (BSP), and serves as the Program Director. After graduating with a B.A. in Natural Science from the College of Saint Benedict, Jennifer spent five years teaching for the Saint Paul Public Schools at Belwin Outdoor Science. During that time she also worked in a leadership capacity for programs at the Science Museum of Minnesota Youth Science Center and the Five-District Integration Partnership. In 2011, Jennifer completed her M.Ed. In Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, Jennifer and her husband keep busy chasing their newly walking 13-month old daughter!
- What's the most challenging aspect of your job?
The mission of Breakthrough Saint Paul is to help motivated students overcome adversity to prepare for college with the support of older students passionate about education. The most challenging aspect of my job is notifying students and interns when there is not space for them in the program. Each year at BSP we invite 50 new 6th grade Saint Paul Public School students to join the incoming class, and 26 older students to experience the summer teaching internship. Due to limited resources and capacity we are not able to accept all of the qualified candidates. I am not a fan of breaking hearts, so that’s one of the toughest parts of my job!
- Who has been a mentor or supporter during your career so far?
It’s too hard to choose one person, so I’ll choose one lesson each from three people, all of whom have served as Executive Directors at Breakthrough Saint Paul. Jeff Ochs taught me the importance of passion. Emily Wingfield taught me the importance of perseverance. Amy Stolpestad is teaching me the importance of perspective.
- What Accomplishment are you most proud of in your career so far?
Over the last few years I’ve been involved in a national level initiative with the Breakthrough Collaborative to develop a teacher-training model for our summer internship. We’ve been drawing upon the latest research in the education sector about effective teaching methods, and have been working to prioritize the techniques that can be most effectively taught and practiced in our short summer session. Many of our intern teachers have said they leave the summer feeling much more confident about their instructional and classroom management skills. I’m proud to be contributing one small ingredient as we work together to pursue equity in education for all students.
- What is your Myers-Briggs personality type and do you agree?
XNFJ. I think it’s very accurate. I was not at all surprised to see the “X” in my score, rather than an “I” or “E” since I consider myself a hybrid of introvert and extrovert. Most people who work with me assume I am an extrovert, but I am an introvert at heart, since I need quiet time to reflect in order to be ready for the more public and energetic portions of my work.
- What is your favorite book, and why?
I am terrible at choosing an all-time favorite, so how about my current favorite... Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov. It’s a book full of practical strategies for classroom teaching, and we’ve been able to draw a lot of ideas from it for our teacher training. Though, it may soon get bumped by the next book on my “to read” list - How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.
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