By Kellen Hayes – US History and AP World History Teacher, YES Prep Brays Oaks
I always tell people that falling into teaching was a happy accident. When I was in college, I participated in a summer school program called Breakthrough Houston that allowed college and high school students to teach an enrichment program to middle school students during the summer. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew I liked history. I fell in love with teaching and building relationships with these students and being able to share something I’m really interested in and communicating it to them. It was really fulfilling! That’s when I knew this is what I want to do. As soon as I graduated, I was looking for teaching opportunities.
WHY TEACH AT YES PREP?
The students we serve tend to be students in neighborhoods that aren’t necessarily receiving the resources they need in order to be more successful, and there’s a lot of obstacles for students who come from underserved neighborhoods. Going back to my days with Breakthrough Houston, this educational inequality is something that calls to me. This is the main reason I came to YES Prep.
The other reason I came to YES is because it is a charter school. A friend of mine who worked at YES was always talking about the flexibility they had when it came to strategies and tapping into resources to help serve the students. This has been my experience, I’ve encountered fewer obstacles to being successful in the classroom, just comparing to my previous experience working in public schools. I applied to work at YES because I desired more freedom and flexibility in my craft.
COMBATING EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITY
Not everybody in our society, unfortunately, is as invested in students’ success as they should be. Some of our students are growing up in poverty and without the resources they need to achieve success. We make it our mission to try to make sure these students have the most options available to them upon graduating high school. I tell people we’ve grown a lot as an organization from “everyone needs to go to college or a four-year university” to “no, we just really want our students to have choices” because that’s what freedom and life is about. It’s about having options and having the ability to choose.
For me, I really like where we are going as an organization in terms of serving students from underserved neighborhoods and populations. We represent a great opportunity for kids to grow and become the sort of citizens that we are looking for in this country.
DEVELOP IMPACTFUL RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENTS
Here at YES Prep, we have small, community-based schools. We are building intimate relationships with students and their families so that we can leverage those relationships to help the students grow. I just feel like at very big traditional high schools, students can become anonymous and it’s hard to develop those close relationships with families.
The best part about working at YES for four years, and counting, is I’m starting to teach siblings of former students. Sometimes I’ll see a parent in the building of a student who already graduated, and I’ll ask, “what are you doing here? Your child graduated already.” and they’ll answer, “I have another one attending YES now!” I think that’s cool. The fact that we can forge these great relationships with students and their families because we are small, it creates a much more intimate educational setting which I think is necessary if our kids are going to achieve what we know they can.
TEACHING IS HARD BUT WORTH IT
Teaching is still hard but that’s also why we do what we do. I think it is the hardest job there can be, but I think that’s part of the reason I still do it. Every day is a challenge and, like most things in life, things that are difficult can also be the most rewarding. I didn’t want to be at a job where I never felt challenged and I never felt like I was growing. I wanted a job that was going to challenge me intellectually, help me grow as a person. I wanted to know that there was some sort of significance to the work I was doing and for me that’s what teaching is all about.
I’ll never sugarcoat it when I tell people to join the teaching profession, especially recent college graduates. The first year of teaching will probably be the toughest thing you’ll ever do in your life, I mean it was for me. I’ll just say that it gets better, and you get better, and the rewards are enormous. I go to bed with peace of mind knowing that I did the best that I could, that we are doing our best to help students grow and become the people they always dreamed of being, and for me that’s important. Yes, it is hard, I’m not going to lie about that, but I think it is worth it. That’s why I am here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kellen Hayes has worked at YES Prep since 2015. He currently teaches US History and AP World History at the YES Prep Brays Oaks campus, while also serving as the Varsity Boys Basketball Coach. Kellen graduated as a member of Phi Beta Kappa from Trinity University in 2009 and went on to teach in Memphis City Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools before moving to Houston. A career teacher, Kellen has a passion for education and basketball. On his free time, he enjoys travel, his dog, and spending time with family.
ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THE 2019-2020 SCHOOL YEAR
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