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.

Melissa Boddie Treesh has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. She currently teaches 6th grade math at YES Prep North Central.

Melissa Boddie

Favorite memory: The 6th grade spring trip every year.  It is such a wonderful experience for our students and a great opportunity for teachers to see them outside of their comfort zones, experiencing new things for the first time– swimming in a lake, making a s’more over a campfire, climbing the rock wall and getting down by a zip line.  You learn so much about the students and I know I am always pleasantly surprised by a student that is so reserved in their daily classes and chooses to take a risk to do something that scares them like the “Screamin’ Eagle.”  It is also wonderful to witness the kiddos encouraging each other in ways that show they are learning what it means to be part of the Trailblazer family and exemplifying the Thinks and Acts.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep with a little encouragement from Craig Brandenburg, Michelle LaFlure, and Mark DiBella. I was a little nervous about moving up to a middle/high school environment after teaching 5th grade for six years in an elementary school environment.  I am so glad that I did make the leap to North Central. I wanted a place where I knew my coworkers were also working hard and the mission of YES is something that I believe in and was looking for.  I wanted to work at a school that produced great results and where striving for excellence was the norm. I also LOVED the community I served at Garcia and wanted to continue working for those families. The most important reason I stay is the students I have the privilege of working with every year. What a gift to be able to teach an entire family!  I work with an amazing group of 6th grade teachers and knowing that we are all in it together makes the daily challenges we face so much easier. I also know that having a great administration team makes a huge difference, and I’ve felt so thankful to have worked for so many great leaders – Mark, Bryan, Phil, Holly, Barb, Michelle, and Natalie.  Although I teach the same content every year, I am motivated and challenged to continue to improve my teaching to benefit my students.  I enjoy the feedback and support I continue to receive from my deans and I really appreciate the professional development opportunities I receive from my content team and 6th grade math team.  I am a strong believer that you should continue to try to improve in your job and YES Prep supports me in that effort.

Kevin Hritz has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as 8th grade math teacher, high school creative writing and rap teacher, and rap team coach at YES Prep Gulfton.

Kevin Hritz

Favorite memory:  I started teaching the Class of 2016 in 6th grade and then coached a number of them on the rap team in 7th grade. I also had a number of them as high school Teacher Assistants for middle school math. I taught the Class of 2016 the year that my father died, when many of them were facing all of the struggles we know that our students often encounter. From that experience, our Boy Meets World/Mr. Feeny relationship was forged. When the Class of 2016 asked me to give the commencement address at their graduation, it was one of the greatest honors that I’ve had as an educator. I brought a huge box of tissues in case any tears of joy leaked out during my speech.

Why YES Prep: I started and stay at YES Prep Public Schools for the students, their families, and the staff. I am grateful to be a leg in the relay of teachers committed to putting students first. The impact that our students’ education has on their lives and the future of their families is profound, and it is a privilege to be a small part of that.

Brittney Jones has worked at YES Prep for 6 years. She currently teaches 7th grade social studies, is the co-grade level chair, and serves as the head coach for the East End Varsity Cheerleading team.

Brittney JonesFavorite memory:  I have had the privilege of being the head coach of the cheerleading team at East End for four years. During my second year as coach, I wanted to give my athletes an experience that was near and dear to my heart – going to cheer camp during the summer. The cheer camp I wanted them to attend was not just any old cheer camp, it was the first National Cheerleaders Association camp ever created and it was located at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. This would be the first time the cheer team traveled away from home together, and I had to prepare them to see some of the best athletes from top-ranked high school athletic programs in the nation. Once we arrived at SMU, the team was shell-shocked. They forgot how to do the simplest skills, became very shy, and their confidence was low. Around lunch time, I caught them outside eating on the green, and they were pumping each other up and motivating one another! They were so excited to be representing East End and they became filled with pride. It was a sight to see. From then on, they started winning different awards and, at our final competition of the camp, my team won a bid to the High School National Cheerleading Championships. They beamed at me when our school was called and I remember one of my seniors at the time telling me, “Ms. Jones – did you hear our name? They called us!! We didn’t even think we were good, but this shows us that we are! Even though we don’t have all the money that these other programs have or all the resources, we have something better – determination and drive. You were right, Ms. Jones, hard work does pay off.”

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I was meant to. It was a divine opportunity that I could not pass up! The mission of YES is why I started and I have stayed for so many years. I am all about giving back to the community, and I get to do that every single day! I give 100% back to my students, their families and my colleagues, which is unbelievably rewarding.

Ellen Winstead has worked at YES Prep for 15 years. She currently serves as the Managing Director of Academics.

Ellen Winstead

Favorite memory:  I had the great privilege of being the founding School Director for YES Prep West. About a year ago, the wonderful Ashleigh Fritz asked me to be the guest speaker at the high school commencement ceremony for the Class of 2016, the founding class at West. It was such an honor to relive the 85 home visits I completed with those students as 5th graders as I watched them pick up their Marvel diploma. I went home and cried with joy at having been a part, a small part, of who they are today. My second favorite memory is being the acting School Director of YES Prep “The Stables” in 2008. What, you haven’t heard of YES Prep The Stables? Ask Mark DiBella about that the next time you see him.

Why YES Prep: I was in my fourth year of teaching ESL/Bilingual 5th grade in HISD when I met Chris Barbic. His wife, Natasha, was my TFA Program Director, and I was so impressed by the energy and passion they both had for education. Chris took me out for coffee, offered me a job, and I became a 6th grade math teacher at YES College Prep in 1999. I stay at YES Prep because there are no greater students, no greater staff, and no greater parents than those that make up the YES Prep family. If I can give back to YES a fraction of what YES Prep has given to me, I will feel like a success. #thejourneymattersmorethanthearrival

Philip Wright has worked at YES Prep for 13 years.  He currently serves as Head of Schools.

Phil Wright

Favorite memory: Senior Signing Day has always been a highlight of the YES Prep experience, but it was most memorable for me in 2010 when I had the opportunity to be on stage as a School Director and watch the excitement of the students announcing their college intentions and the pride of the families when they joined in signing the letter of intent.  I realized the collective impact of the dedicated teachers and staff at YES Prep and the significance of the commitment we make to our families.

Why YES Prep: James Sheridan and I worked tirelessly for four years striving to get our students from McReynolds MS into YES Prep so they could significantly increase the possibility of a college education.  As we saw our bright and hard-working students opt for the local HS where only 50% of 9th graders were earning a HS degree, I felt called to join YES Prep to expand the opportunity for a college-ready education to all students in Houston.  I remain at YES because of our commitment to improving on the educational experience we offer to our current students and our vision to ensure all students in Houston have the opportunity for a college-ready education.

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