5 for 5 Spotlight: Jennifer Crancer, Eileen Romero Galligan, Michelle LaFlure, Samantha Merritt, and Tim Tran

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.

Jennifer Crancer has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches art at YES Prep Southeast.

Jennifer Crancer

Favorite memory: My list of memories is long. YES Prep has provided a safe space for my family and for all of our students. I believe the everyday memories we get to take part in are valuable. It is hard to pick just one.

Why YES Prep: When we moved back to Houston, I was looking to get back into schools that educated students in underserved neighborhoods. I appreciate the schools that go above and beyond to ensure that all students succeed. I have stayed because this place has become family. I left for a year after my youngest was born. It was a no brainer when I was asked to come back. My growth as an instructor and the support I receive will not be found elsewhere. Southeast is home.

Eileen Romero Galligan has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently serves as Assistant School Director at YES Prep Southeast.

Galligan, Eileen

Favorite memory: I had the opportunity to teach three classes at Southeast twice when I moved from middle to high school—the Classes of 2013, 2014, and 2015. Being able to reconnect with my former 7th graders and see the thoughtful, brilliant, and hardworking young men and women they had become was a highlight of my career. In particular, I remember reminiscing with some girls of the Class of 2014 about their time in middle school, and how challenging that time was for them. A few of them had the great idea of hosting a middle school girls’ night. We ate pizza, painted each others’ nails, and sang along to silly pop songs. It was the exact kind of thoughtful event that makes Southeast a great place to work, and it was entirely run by students, for students.

Why YES Prep: I joined YES Prep as a Teach for America corps member in 2007, as a 7th grade English teacher. I grew up in southeast Houston, so joining this campus felt like coming home. I stay for so many reasons: to honor the value for education that my parents instilled in me, to make a difference in my community, because I have built strong friendships with other staff members, and because it energizes me to work for an organization committed to constant reflection and growth.

Michelle LaFlure has worked at YES Prep for 14 years. She currently serves as School Director at YES Prep North Central.

Michelle LaFlure

Favorite memory and why YES Prep: When I was in TFA teaching at Barrick Elementary School, a school called YES Prep Northeast opened up in north Houston. My 5th grade students would “graduate” from Barrick and go to neighborhood schools. The quality of their education was dependent on the teacher, since the overall quality of the schools was low.  In the picture above, you will see three of my former students (from left to right):  Mario, Wendy, me, and Miguel. Mario is one of my 5th grade students who is now a college graduate teaching math at Nimitz High School. Wendy is a 2016 North Central graduate, and Miguel is a 2014 North Central graduate.  I have known the Gonzalez family since 2001 and I have seen all three children successfully complete their high school careers. It is because of families like the Gonzalez family that I stay at YES Prep. They inspire me.

Samantha Merritt has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches AP English Literature and Composition at YES Prep East End.

Samantha Merrit 2

Favorite memory:  We’ve created a few traditions in my class that we execute each year as we get closer to the AP exam; such traditions include designing T-shirts that kids wear the day after the AP exam that feature student artwork and a slew of nerdy, literary inside jokes from our class, and there’s also Green Balloon Day–the day before the AP exam, kids walk around school with inflated green balloons to represent them reaching for their goals and aspirations (akin to the famous green light, for those in the know). Kids get so excited for these traditions, and I look forward to these days all year long!

Why YES Prep: My Program Director from Teach For America visited YES Prep in early 2011 and recommended that I apply. I thought that my teaching commitment would end after my two years with TFA, but after I visited East End for my interview and sample lesson, I knew that my time in the classroom was not over. I stay at YES Prep because—simply– I love my job, and I love the people (students, families, and staff) with whom I get to work. I love talking about literature and hearing kids’ opinions, and I love seeing kids improve in their writing and analytical abilities. I’m lucky to work in a job that is equally important and fulfilling.

Tim Tran has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. He currently serves as the Dean of Students at YES Prep Southwest.

Tim Tran

Favorite memory:  I have so many fun memories, but some of the best definitely come from bringing 7th graders on their annual spring camping trip in West Texas. On that trip, we would do everything from horseback riding and paintballing, to going down into Carlsbad Caverns and then climbing Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. It was good old-fashioned fun to celebrate our students’ successes for the year. I was also always amazed how us teachers somehow made the kids believe that camping on a RV park playground was the best thing ever.

Why YES Prep:  I was lucky to be placed at YES Prep Southwest for Teach For America, and I doubt I would still be in Houston if it weren’t for this special place. I stay at YES Prep because of the people. The students and their families are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and I have the privilege of working with the most dedicated and humble educators every day. I also stay at YES Prep because I feel valued here. Whether as a teacher or in my current role outside of the classroom, I have always felt like others believed in me and are invested in providing me with the tools I need to be successful in my work.

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