Luis Ramos is a graduate of YES Prep Southeast (2012) and Connecticut College (2016), where he double-majored in architectural studies and sociology. He is a Teach For America corps member and an 8th grade math teacher at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School. We spoke to him about his experiences as a first-year teacher and former YES Prep student.
What drew you to teaching?
I had teachers who were corps members, and I was definitely influenced by that to study education. Throughout college, I did sociological research on youths. I wanted to study different types of schools in the neighborhood where we worked. As an alumnus of a charter school, I was very intrigued by studying magnet schools, public schools, charter schools, and school choice. It made me want to do TFA and to go behind the scenes of education policy.
What has been your experience thus far with YES Prep’s training and resources?
I have a Teaching Excellence coach, a Dean of Instruction, a School Director, and support through TFA as well. The good thing is that they all collaborate and meet, so that I’m receiving the same, consistent support from everyone and not getting different messages or types of advice from all the supporters. They’re always willing to answer questions I have. I can email or go to their office. They’re open to hearing everything I have to say. I have the agency to express what I need and what I’m going through. And then they can guide me through this difficult year.
What has been your experience with content teams?
I really like content team. The other 8th grade math teacher here leads the content team, so she knows the curriculum well and what we need to teach. I especially like content days because I see other YES Prep alumni who teach 8th grade math. We can reconnect and share how our teaching experiences are going. They’re all going through the same thing. I can depend on them and they can depend on me; we have so many shared experiences. We reminisce about what YES Prep was like in the “old days” and talk about how it has changed.
What has been your greatest experience as a first-year teacher?
All of my great moments have to do with building relationships with my kids. They like to come during lunch and hang out and talk to me about what they’re going through and how they can improve in class. I can listen to them and build that connection. We’ve taken them on bid trips to celebrate their successes– like taking them to football games. Through bid trips, we can learn more about the kids and develop those connections. I’ve told them that I did a two-year commitment with TFA, but I plan to be there when they walk across the stage at Senior Signing Day, and I want to see them graduate from college.
Do you connect with your teachers that are still at YES?
I talk to a lot of my teachers. I talk to my college counselor Bobby Treviño, who is still at Southeast. I talk to Aaron Simmons, who I met when I was in 8th grade and I was terrible. When I was in high school, my parents were going through a divorce, and I was able to connect with him then and open up about it. I still talk to Leigh Anne Rayburn, who helped me get this position. Mr. Jones (School Director at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School) reached out to her when I was applying and he said she had nothing but great things to say about me.
What advice do you have for other alumni who are considering teaching at YES Prep?
Go for it. As kids, most of us struggled with or complained about the rigor of YES Prep. Growing up, I said I’m not coming back to YES Prep. I missed hanging out with my friends all the time after school. But when I was in college, I’d come visit and talk to the underclassmen about my experiences. I was able to focus on the positives once I was out of school. If it weren’t for YES Prep, I don’t know where I’d be at this moment. My parents would have done their best to put me in a great public school, but at YES Prep, I was set up for success. I knew from day one that I was going to go to and graduate from college. I’m glad I ended up teaching at YES Prep, so that I can share that perspective with students.
What was one of the biggest lessons you carried with you from YES Prep to now?
I think that one thing that stuck with me the most is “we are a family-oriented school.” YES Prep was one of the biggest support networks in my life. I see my former teachers, my coworkers, my students, and anyone I’ve crossed paths with at YES as family. They are people who I’m able to confide in and to open up to without feeling judged.