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.

Marissa Blakley has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches AP Calculus AB & AP Calculus BC at YES Prep East End.

Marissa Blakley

Favorite memory: Nothing makes me happier than when I spend time with my former students, our amazing YES Prep alumni. Whether they are making a quick visit to campus to pick up a younger sibling or stop by for help on their college math homework, these encounters are so rewarding for me. I love when my kids (our kids!) come back and share their successes and challenges with us.

Why YES Prep: I was first exposed to YES Prep during my fifth year teaching at Lee High School when I began seeing and hearing the cutest little 6th graders of YES Prep Lee (now YES Prep Gulfton) walking around our campus. I had never heard of YES Prep before then, but I was immediately intrigued so I did some digging and learned about the mission of YES Prep. The more I researched, the more I learned that my own beliefs in students, education, and social justice aligned greatly with the work of YES Prep.  After meeting Mark DiBella at Inversion Coffeehouse one day after school and geeking out over things like the IER, Content Teams and Common Assessments, I was hooked!

I stay at YES Prep for two reasons.  First, the support I receive at YES Prep is unparalleled.  My co-workers believe in me and show me day in and day out that I am valued.  I am consistently pushed and trusted to try new things in my classroom in order to meet the needs of my students. I have grown so much as an educator during my time at YES Prep, and I am so grateful for the shared vision among everyone here that there is always more to learn and that we can always be better.  The second reason I stay at YES Prep is for our students and their families. As a parent of two small children, I understand all too well the trust that our students’ families put in us to take care of their babies every single day. I take this responsibility so seriously and come back to YES year after year to serve these families and give them the absolute best that I have to offer.  The community that we serve is kind, humble and committed to redefining what’s possible for their children – how special is it that I can play a part in that?!

Kacie Cooper has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. She currently teaches AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and AP Statistics at YES Prep Southeast.

Kacie Cooper

Favorite memory: I will always remember my very first Senior Signing Day for the Class of 2011. We were all crammed in the Rice Field House, and it was such an excellent celebration of education. It was when I knew I wanted to be at YES for a very long time.

Why YES Prep: I was working in Houston ISD my first two years of teaching, and I wanted to find a school that supported my mindset that ALL children CAN achieve and that every child deserves a great education. I knew some people through TFA that worked at YES, and I feel so blessed that I was able to get a job at Southeast.

I love working at a place that puts “people first.” We put our students at the center of why we do our jobs every day. I feel valued as a staff member at YES, and I feel like my job makes an impact.

Victor Osorio has worked at YES Prep for 10 years. He currently works as a Special Education Compliance Specialist at West.

Victor Osorio

Favorite memory: I have so many great memories not only as a YES Prep student, but also as a YES Prep staff member. Some of my favorite memories as a YES Prep student are when I went on spring trips, earned college scholarships, and, of course, graduated from high school. As a YES Prep staff member, my favorite memory was seeing the first students I taught graduate from high school.

Why YES Prep: I started working at YES Prep as soon as I graduated from high school in 2007. I wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to me. I do not give up on my own students because of the support I received from my teachers. My teachers challenged me to work harder to attend college and be the first person in my family to graduate with a college degree. I am now pushing my students toward the same success because I had teachers and staff that valued education, taught me to embrace who I am, and drove me to be the successful teacher that I am today.

Sarah Straub has worked at YES Prep for 9 years. She currently teaches 7th grade social studies at YES Prep Brays Oaks.

Sarah Straub

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories from YES Prep was the first time my students published a book. I was teaching Freshman Seminar at the time and the students worked with community partners, University of Houston undergraduates, and volunteer Brays Oaks staff to complete a reverse chronological study of concepts of injustice in America related to a part of their own personal identity. The fact that they were able to complete a 13-page paper is impressive in and of itself, but what made this so special was the community impact my students were able to have!

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep after I had been rejected from Teach for America. The North Central AD at the time, Tyler Martin, suggested that I apply to YES Prep directly and I did. I stayed at YES Prep– and Brays Oaks specifically – because of the relationships I have built with the families of my students.

Carlos Villagrana has worked at YES Prep for over 7 years. He currently serves as the Managing Director of Teaching Excellence.

Carlos Villagrana

Favorite memory: My 1st day at work was January 10th, which happened to be the 1st of day of the spring semester. All of the YES Prep staff fit in the East End cafeteria. The highlight of the day was a staff talent show with each campus and the HO being represented.

Why YES Prep: I wanted to come to a place where I could work with other committed individuals who held each other and students to high standards. I stay because I believe the work we do at Teaching Excellence impacts our students, teachers and campuses for the better. Also the TEam is a great group of talented individuals who also know how to make our work fulfilling.

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