5 for 5 Spotlight: Alexandra Arroyo, Michael Buck, Jeremy Jones, Oscar Romano, & Aaron Simmons

In our Five for Five series, we spotlight YES Prep staff members who have committed five or more years to YES Prep. For more, read about YES Prep’s Commit to Five program.

Alexandra Arroyo has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently serves as the Director of Talent Development.

Alexandra Arroyo

Favorite memory: There was a group of students that I taught at Patrick Henry Middle School in HISD that transferred to YES Prep North Central in 9th grade the same year I started working at YES Prep. The day they graduated from North Central will be a day I never forget. They are my reminders that our mission is necessary and possible to achieve. One even teaches at YES Prep North Central now.

Why YES Prep: I started working at YES Prep because I saw how the entire staff was aligned and working towards one clear mission– that every student will graduate from college prepared to lead. I stay at YES Prep because I know that we are not only taking incredible strides to live out our mission, but also our innovation in doing so is helping other charters and school districts do the same.

Michael Buck has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as the Director of Social Studies.

Mike Buck

Favorite memory: In my first year at YES Prep, I was the World Geography teacher at Southeast. My wife went into labor with our first (of four!) children, and while in the hospital, my 2nd period students all huddled around an iPhone to Facetime me and send their support and congratulations. While my wife wasn’t excited about it at the time, this showed me just how “family-oriented” we are as an organization.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I was really inspired by the mission, and I have continued to stay with YES Prep because of the people I am privileged to work with, and because of their incredible commitment to students. Our Social Studies program has continued to develop over the past several years such that our students have achieved impressive results on AP Social Studies exams. Last year, Hispanic students at YES Prep who took the AP World History and AP Government exams accounted for almost two percent of all Hispanic students across the entire state of Texas who earned qualifying scores. I feel privileged and humbled to be a part of a department of people who have devoted their lives to empowering the next generation of civil leaders, historians, and social scientists.

Jeremy Jones has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. He currently serves as the School Director of YES Prep Northbrook Middle School.

Jeremy Jones

Favorite memory: More than anything, I remember the connections that I have made with students and how those connections persist today.  I’ll never forget how two of my 6th grade students started teaching class when I was late one day and therefore won the job of doing the do first for the remainder of the year, or how much fun I had teaching with Mark DiBella and Craig Brandenburg back at the warehouse when we were still called Northeast instead of North Central. I’ll never forget racing up Stone Mountain with 80 6th graders and Michelle LaFlure (current School Director of North Central) or seeing my students interviewed on the news for hosting a health and wellness fair as a part of one of our units. Ultimately, names like Alan, Alvaro, Jason, Luis, Jose and Melvyn are what stick with me most. The boys struggled to persist but ultimately found a way to inspire me and their families through their growth as young men.

Why YES Prep: I started working at YES Prep in January of 2006 after Hurricane Katrina. Someone who helped develop me as a teacher in Teach For America had worked at YES Prep, and she was effusive about the impact the program had on students and families in Houston. I was intrigued by the small and mighty group of teachers who were leading the way for massive education reform in one of America’s largest cities and felt a sense of aspirational hope and commitment to our students. I also loved the feeling of being a part of something still in startup mode– to create, innovate, iterate and have fun.  I continue my work at YES Prep today as the leader of one of our partnership schools.  I enjoy feeling like we are on the tip of the spear, still finding creative and innovative ways to provide world-class, 21st century education for our students and I get to do that at the intersection of two great organizations, YES Prep and Spring Branch.

Oscar Romano has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. He currently serves as the School Director of YES Prep Gulfton.

Oscar Romano

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories at YES Prep occurred two years ago when I was a High School Dean of Students. A student walked into my office to ask me a question and proudly stated that it was his first time in my office all year. He was in and out of my office for 4+ years and I called home about his behavior almost every week. That moment was powerful for me because it helped reinforce the fact that we need to give our best every day for all our students. It may not seem like it in the moment, but the gains will arrive if we’re persistent with our actions.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I saw the power of an entire system aligned on providing all students with a college-ready education. I stay because I believe in our work and want to be a part of realizing our vision to ensure every student in Houston has access to a high quality education.

Aaron Simmons has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. He currently serves as the Assistant School Director of YES Prep East End.

Aaron Simmons

Favorite memory: My favorite memories are when students that I taught step up to be leaders. The class of 2012 at Southeast stepped up and created the Fall FiYESta which has become a tradition at SE.  The Student Council created a winter time celebration, Winter Wonderland, and established that tradition at West, which was a privilege to be a part of.  My favorite example is seeing kids who I taught graduate from college and give back to their communities in the classroom.  It is so great to see the YES Prep mission come full circle.

Why YES Prep: After working for an after-school, non-profit organization while in college, I knew that I wanted to get into education. When Emilee (on her 11th year at SE) and I moved back to Houston, we heard about YES through a friend. I became a full-time substitute at SE teaching 8th grade science. The students were the reason why I stuck around – no matter how hard of a time they gave me.  I knew that this is where I wanted to be. As the years have gone by, and I have worked in leadership positions, it is the people that I have the privilege to work with every day and see their impact on students that inspires and motivates me.

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