Sarah Straub is a Kinder Award winner and advanced teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks. Since joining YES Prep in 2009, she has worn many hats, teaching middle school social studies, Spanish, art, freshman seminar, athletics, and more. Currently, she teaches 7th grade Texas History. She also teaches undergraduate education courses at the University of Houston. Straub has a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston, a master’s degree in political science from UNC Chapel Hill, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston.
What brought you to YES Prep?
I was thinking about doing TFA after my master’s, and I called one of my friends from the College of Charleston, who was already working at YES. He encouraged me to apply directly to YES Prep rather than going through TFA.
What made you decide to apply?
I was doing this master’s program in political science, and I was getting frustrated with people who were just writing about issues but not actually doing anything. It felt very pretentious. My friend told me that in education, there was action. I’d be able to make an impact. I didn’t look at any other jobs besides YES Prep.
Why do you remain at YES Prep?
Brays Oaks has been my family for a long time. When I moved here, I didn’t know anybody and had no money because I’d just been living in Spain. I spent most of my after-school time doing tutorials and coaching soccer. The kids’ families would invite me to eat dinner at their house about two nights a week. Those kids now have little siblings that I’ve taught. There’s one family where I’ve taught four of the six kids. Parents here recognize me, kids know me, the pastor at the church down the street recognizes me. I feel like I’m part of the community here.
You completed your doctorate while teaching full time?
Yes, I finished this December. While I was applying, I was teaching freshman seminar. We were doing a project in seminar on the college application process. So while they were learning about the process, I was going through it. While they were writing personal statements, I could show them the one I was writing. When we talked about requesting transcripts, I showed them mine. We were even going to graduate together, but it ended up taking me a semester longer.
What was it like to teach and be in school?
There was a point where I thought I needed a break from being in the classroom. I was full time at University of Houston, and I didn’t think I could teach full time as well. So I started working as an Athletic Director, but I realized very quickly that I belonged in the classroom. Honestly, the thing that makes me happy is working day-to-day with kids. I feel very connected as a teacher– especially a middle school teacher. It’s a very friendly, family environment.
What do you still struggle with– even as an Advanced teacher?
I switch contents because I crave change. One of the reasons I love this job is that it’s always different. But this year is my first time being in a very content-heavy course rather than a skills-heavy course. I’m still struggling with how to create a student-centered classroom in such a content-heavy class. My doctorate is about culturally responsive pedagogy, which is about student focus and ownership. But in this course, I don’t have the curricular knowledge yet to make that my focus.
If you were speaking to experienced teachers who were thinking of coming to YES, what would tell them?
Based on conversations I’ve had with advanced teachers who have transferred to YES from other districts, the presence of administration at YES Prep is unprecedented. They support you and acknowledge you for your strengths. The expectations are a lot clearer, so you have room to develop.
What’s it like to teach undergraduates as well?
It’s really fun! I teach a classroom management class at U of H once a week. I’m relearning some of the theory and philosophers that I’d forgotten about. And I’m hearing from students that have such different ideas too. It’s a great reminder that not all classroom management has to look like mine, as long as there’s education and theory behind it.
Let’s close with your favorite YES Prep memory?
My student Amador Martinez graduated last year. Amador was part of the Dragon Club, and one of the things we’d do was play Iron Chef. I’d give him a gift card to a grocery store for a secret ingredient. He and his parents would create a three course meal using that secret ingredient and all the kids in the club would come over. His senior year, when he graduated, he invited teachers who’d had an impact on him over for an Iron Chef dinner. It was the best three-course meal I’ve ever had and such a nice full-circle experience.