Marco Estrada attended University of Texas-Austin and majored in government. After graduating in 2009, he joined Teach For America (TFA) and was placed at YES Prep North Central as a 7th grade Texas History and English Language Arts teacher. He now teaches 9th grade English and was recently awarded the Kinder Award for Teaching Excellence.
Why did you decide to join TFA in 2009?
I grew up in a Mexican-American family in West Texas where Latinos comprise the majority of the population. It wasn’t until I went to UT that I saw a lot more diversity. I also saw that many students who were first-generation like me weren’t as prepared for college as their white peers. I saw kids who had been valedictorians in their high schools in inner-city Houston or San Antonio on academic probation. TFA was a place where I could make a difference. I could give back to students from similar communities who lacked access to educational opportunities or knowledge about the college process.
Why have you stayed at YES Prep since 2009?
First, the mission of preparing students to go to college, succeed, and return to make an impact really drives me. I love feeling that I can make an impact and contribute to something bigger than myself. I’ve read studies that, of all our teachers in the country, only 2% are Latino males. If I’m helping a student see someone like them living as a professional and if I can guide them toward an ambitious goal, that’s motivating for me and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Secondly, I stay because of my colleagues. It’s exciting to be a part of a group of staff members that are all super committed and supportive of each other. The responsibilities and demands of being a teacher can be overwhelming, so it’s helpful to have someone who can give you feedback, be a thought-partner, have your back, and give you a leg up when you need one.
If you were speaking to a prospective teacher, what you would tell them about working at YES Prep?
They should come teach here because they’ll be surrounded by hard-working individuals– from the students to the teachers. They’ll be a part of a community that is working toward something bigger. It’s a place where staff members have a support system that ensures their growth and progress.
Who or what is a part of that support system for you?
When I think of support, I think about my grade level team. Together, we come up with different systems and methods to engage our students, promote class culture, and make academic growth. I also think about my instructional support– my Dean of Instruction– who gives me targeted feedback and ensures that I’m making progress toward my instructional goal.
What’s your favorite YES Prep memory?
I’ve seen a lot of North Central’s history. I feel fortunate to have been to every single graduation ceremony we’ve had. I love seeing the families’ excitement, appreciation, and joy. Getting to be a part of one chapter ending and the beginning of another is a really cool experience.