From Practice to Publishing: YES Prep New Book to Help Develop Novice Teachers

Teaching Excellence team members walking down hallway

There are many books out there on being an effective school leader, and many more on effective teaching. However, as the economy shifts and multiple career changes become the norm, even the best school leaders will find that they are onboarding new teachers every year. Supporting a teacher who is new to the profession is quite different than supporting a teacher that has even two years of experience.

Developing Novice Teachers for Over a Decade

Teaching Excellence, a YES Prep alternative teacher certification program, is comprised of a team of Instructional Coaches and educational leaders charged with providing the support necessary to effectively onboard, certify, and develop the dozens of novice teachers that YES Prep hires every year. Teaching Excellence was started almost 15 years ago and in that time the program’s practices have become so successful that districts around Houston and throughout Texas have partnered up to develop their own first-year teachers.

School and district leaders at KIPP Texas – Houston, Uplift Education in Dallas, Baker Ripley, and Spring Branch ISD, among others, have touted the exemplary support that Teaching Excellence provides their teachers. Additionally, Teach For America recommends the program to any new partnership as a certifying body that does so much more than simply certify their teachers. Teaching Excellence’s reputation has crossed state lines to the extent that organizations and school leaders from around the country have come to Houston to learn from the program firsthand. Earlier this Spring, the Gates Foundation invested in Teaching Excellence in the hopes that they would be able to share what is working for the program throughout the state.

Sharing Best Practices via Amazon

Thanks to the support of the Walton Family Foundation, the Teaching Excellence team compiled the practices they’ve honed since the program’s inception and published “Teaching Excellence: A Field Guide For Coaching and Developing Novice Teachers.”

The first section of the book focuses mostly on the mindsets Teaching Excellence seeks to build in the program’s coaches and the organization, as well as relationship building skills necessary to quickly move the needle in their teachers’ classrooms. Focus is then shifted to campus-based leaders and how these same skills are important for them but discuss how they might look different.

The middle section focuses on the coaching cycle that has set Teaching Excellence apart from many other organizations that seek to develop and coach novice teachers. We lift the veil on what has made the program so effective and how Teaching Excellence coaches in a way that produces results each time instructional coaches enter a classroom and collaborate with a teacher.

Lastly, the book focuses on adult learning. Teaching Excellence’s Professional Learning Team has spent years fine-tuning its own understanding of what professional development needs to look and feel like to result in changes in teacher practices and ultimately student achievement. The book walks other leaders through this process step-by-step from determining what topics should be covered at what time of year to distinguishing a great facilitator of adults – one who pushes teachers to improve – from simply one who is enjoyable to listen to.

Aim & Audience

The book’s aim is to help instructional leaders in any setting skip the thirteen-year learning curve that led the team to the set of codified best practices now used and has made it one of the most respected novice teacher development organizations in the country. Teaching Excellence published this book for all leaders that have a hand in ushering new educators into the profession: district leaders, principals, assistant principals, deans, content leaders, grade-level chairs. Mentor teachers will also find that pieces of this book speak to the role they play in supporting novice teachers. While the book is structured as a field guide and that might read cover-to-cover at first, there will most likely be certain sections that each reader dog-ears and repeatedly comes back to as they hone their own practice.

Message from Contributing Author

As one of the book’s primary authors, I had the opportunity to see this project progress from the time it was just an idea being discussed over lunch to the finished product it has now become. The process of writing this book took more time and more energy than we would have thought at the outset, as none of us had ever written an entire book before, but we’re incredibly proud of the finished product and believe it has the potential to improve the coaching of novice teachers across the country.

Here in Houston, we’re considering how we might use this text as the centerpiece of a program designed to provide in-person coaching to district and campus leaders across the city. Priced at $19.98 in a nod to the year YES Prep was founded, “Teaching Excellence: A Field Guide for Coaching and Developing Novice Teachers” can be purchased on Amazon, and is soon to be found on the desks and bookshelves of effective school leaders across the country!

To learn more about YES Prep’s Teaching Excellence program, click here.



Paul NeedhamPaul Needham has worked at YES Prep since 2011. While he currently serves as the Science Content Director, he spent his first eight years as a member of the Teaching Excellence team as an Instructional Coach and Manager of Professional Learning. Paul graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2005 with a B.A. in Sociology at which point he became a Teach For America Houston Corps Member and taught in HISD for three years. When he’s not building scientists, he enjoys woodworking and spending time with his wife Tiffany and their children Isabella (9) and Westley (7).


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