The following post is adapted from a speech delivered at the Spindletop Center for Teaching Excellence Dedication Ceremony. Guest writer, Rosa Gutierrez, is an alumna of YES Prep Southeast and has taught at YES Prep for eight years.
Thank you for allowing me to be here with you this morning; Not only is it nice to “sneak” off campus for a few but I feel honored to be at the Spindletop Teaching Excellence Dedication Ceremony, especially to share my experiences as a YES Prep Alumna, Teaching Excellence Program graduate, and as someone who has a personal connection to Executive Director of Spindletop Charities, Constance White.
I began attending YES Prep in 1999 as a 7th grader. To think that YES has been a part of my life for nearly two decades is mind-blowing. In high school, I was a part of Student Council the year that we first unveiled the infamous “Thinks and Acts Statements,” which embody the core beliefs of all YES Prep students and staff. When you visit any campus, you’ll see these statements and affirmations hanging in the hallways and classrooms. Everyone has that one Thinks and Acts Statement that’s their favorite. I know I like to use “We always leave a place better then we found it” when I have lunch duty. But the one that has stood out to me all these years is “We are family-oriented school.” As a high school student, YES was literally a family-oriented school. At one point, all three of my siblings, five cousins, and three neighbors attended YES. As a student at Notre Dame, that statement took on a new meaning. My freshman year, Constance came with my college counselor, Donald Kamentz, to visit me, and I felt like family was coming to see me. My parents could not afford to visit me 2,000 miles away, so it was amazing to have my YES family taking the time to do so. I know my mom felt comforted to know that someone was looking out for me. Constance brought a piece of Houston, my home, to Notre Dame and it made me less homesick. I will never forget it. Thank you, Constance.
As a teacher at YES for the past 8 years, “We are a family-oriented school,” has evolved into something new. My students are my children. Their successes are my successes; their failures are my failures. I take the partnership between students, parents, and teachers seriously and this belief was instilled in me from day one at Teaching Excellence during the summer of 2009. I felt fortunate to be a part of a certification program that was in my district and on my campus. My new YES family became my fellow first-year teachers who shared the same nerves and worries and excitement about teaching at YES. I am grateful to YES Prep staff members Nella, Ashley, and Jeanne and all the instructional coaches for not only sharing their content knowledge, but also their invaluable advice and experiences with us.
Eight years ago, I did not picture myself as a veteran teacher, but I love it and cannot imagine myself being in another role. Thank you to all of you who were able to join us to celebrate this partnership, and to Spindletop Charities for your incredible support of YES Prep throughout the past two decades. And thank you to YES Prep and the Teaching Excellence program for helping shape the person and teacher I am today.