5 for 5: Spotlight on 5 YES Prep teachers and staff members who committed 5+ years to YES

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.

Tony Castillo has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as YES Prep Southside’s School Director.

Antonio Castillo

Favorite memory: My favorite memory was becoming School Director of YES Prep Southside.

Why YES Prep: I started and stay for Southside. The greater neighborhoods of Sunnyside and Third Ward need us and what’s more true, WE NEED THEM. They will help us become a better school and better system as we learn to do what it takes to uniquely meet our students and families where they need it. Southside will be a great school and a great server to our community.

Nathan Hennessey has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. He currently teaches AP English Literature and AP English Language at YES Prep Southeast.

Nathan Hennessey

Favorite Memory: Five or six years ago I taught a young woman who struggled to find her place at YES. She felt the school stifled her freedom, and she had trouble finding joy in the work. I had many conversations with her about the value of her education and her time at YES, but little seemed to get through. At Senior Signing Day, she sat behind me. When the announcement came that the graduating class earned millions of dollars in scholarships, I heard her say, “Wow!” I turned around and told her, “That is why you’re here.” She went on to excel through the next few years, and at graduation, she walked knowing that she earned her place, and her scholarship.

Why YES: I started at Southeast through Teach For America. I count myself lucky. If I was asked to weed through today’s stringent hiring process, I wonder if 2006 me would have received the opportunity to learn and teach at such a great school. I stay at Southeast because the growth I see in my students reminds me of my own growth. Teaching has not always been easy, and some years have worn me down and left me considering other paths, but knowing I will learn, and improve brings me back. I see this in my students. I first taught Eduardo three years ago, English II. He struggled. Work didn’t get done, writing was a mess, and his desire to improve seemed nonexistent. I taught Eduardo again his junior year, IRC, and he started to ask questions, rewrite paragraphs, and persist through the challenges. This year, I teach Eduardo for the third time, AP English Language. His improvement makes me proud. He wrote three fives on his last common assessment, proving that Eduardo has grown into a college-ready writer, and he is still improving. I return, year after year, because I know I am not done learning, and like Eduardo, I can continue to improve.

Nella García Urban has worked at YES Prep for 13 years. She currently serves as the Vice President of Talent.

Nella Garcia Urban

Favorite memory: My all time favorite memory is when the founding class of Gulfton graduated from high school. Corey Crouch, the School Director, and Laura Villafranca, the Director of College Counseling, knew how much the class meant to me. They made so many efforts to ensure I was connected and involved. They gave me the privilege of reading the students’ names at graduation. The moment still gives me goosebumps. I was incredibly proud of the students and the work it took by so many to get them to that day.

Why YES Prep: The first time I observed a YES Prep classroom, I was sold. Students were excited, engaged, confident and pushed academically. This was not my educational experience. Meeting our students and talking with them about their plans for the future and their commitment to learning was deeply motivating to me. I knew then and there that I was going to do everything I could to become at teacher at YES Prep. I stay at YES because in my mind there is no greater freedom than that of an education. Our students deserve to go to a school that is safe, that pushes them academically, that allows for them to not only be who they are, but also realize who they can become. Our mission is worth fighting for and I want to be in this fight for as long as I have it in me. “Only the educated are free” – epictetus

Lindsay Pears has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently teaches 9th grade Algebra and is the Data Czarina.

Lindsay Pears

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories is of my first Spring Trip as a 7th grade teacher. We took students all the way across Texas and into New Mexico, where many of them experienced a lot of things for the very first time. It was fun watching my kids expand their horizons, while I myself got to do quite a few things outside my own comfort zone, like riding a horse, sleeping in a tent, and climbing to the tallest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak. Wrangling a herd of 12-year olds in the middle of the desert definitely wasn’t easy, but it was totally worth it.

Why YES Prep: Fun fact: I was the very first TFA Corps Member to be placed at YES, way back in 2006! So while I didn’t really choose YES, and YES didn’t really get to choose me, I’m thankful every day for the serendipity that placed me here. I’ve far outlasted my original two-year placement, and I’ve chosen again and again to stay because I fell in love: with North Central, with teaching Algebra, with Houston, and with the hundreds of Trailblazers that I’ve taught and/or taught alongside over the last decade. North Central is the place I grew up, more so even than my birthplace or my college campus, and it’s the place I’ll probably always call “home”.

Marc Ybarsabal has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as a Data Scientist at the Home Office.

Marc Ybarsabal

Favorite memory: I coached the North Central chess club in 2014-2015. In the club was a group of hard-working/kind/intelligent/hilarious students who called themselves the Nerd Herd. They were great fun to work with, and I enjoyed sharing my love of chess with them.

Why YES Prep: My first four years of teaching were at Chavez High School in HISD. Through the TFA network, I learned about YES Prep and was attracted by its energy, talent, and academic model. I knew these things would help me improve as a teacher, and I was excited to work with like-minded leaders. I stay because I really enjoy my current role, which allows me to use my classroom experience to analyze data and build analytics to support schools at multiple levels.

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