Deja Laws attended Texas Southern University and majored in education. She graduated in 2015 and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction at Prairie View A&M. She teaches Algebra I and is the 9th Grade Level Chair and Cheer coach at YES Prep West. We interviewed her about her decision to work at YES Prep, the support she receives through YES Prep’s Content Teams, and her favorite YES Prep memory.
Why did you apply to work at YES Prep?
The mission. I wanted to work with students who weren’t being served elsewhere, and I went to a charter school when I was a kid, so I understand the closeness and family vision behind these schools. YES Prep really felt like home to me.
Why do you stay?
Teachers definitely have strenuous jobs with long hours and high expectations at YES Prep, but seeing kids have that a-ha moment is definitely worth it. When I first started at YES in 2015, I was a permanent sub for 8th grade math. The following year, I taught those same students in Algebra I. And now they’re 10th graders. I’ve been able to see them grow as people and as mathematicians. I’ve had kids who hated math when I first taught them come back and say, “You won’t believe what we’re doing in math class this year” or “I used this thing you taught me.” That’s what makes me come back every day– the long-term picture of success.
If you were speaking to a prospective teacher about working at YES Prep, what would you tell them?
I would tell them about all the ongoing content support that we have at YES Prep. We have Content Days where we meet with other teachers from our grade level content area and discuss the curriculum and assessments. We have Course Leaders and facilitators who really know the subject and are showing us techniques for teaching math and sharing differentiated lessons. We work on literacy in the math curriculum and teach students to have a growth mindset so that we are boosting their confidence in math. I have friends who teach math in other districts emailing me for help because they don’t receive the same support we do. I’d say the math leaders at YES Prep are really setting the bar for the rest of Houston.
Why is it important to have more teachers of color?
I think it’s about relating to the kids and showing them that someone like them can do it. Growing up, I only had two teachers of color in math, and I did really well when I had those teachers. I think gender matters too. There weren’t many female math teachers and there’s a stigma that girls aren’t good at math. I still have girls say to me, “Miss, you know girls aren’t good at math,” and I say, “Stop it. I’m a girl and I’m good at math.”
What’s your favorite YES Prep memory?
My first Senior Signing Day. We didn’t have a day like that in my high school. My college counselor didn’t even know my class rank or what my interests were when it came to college. Here, our students are in seminar classes learning how to apply and prepare for college and the college counselors are aware of each of their specific situations. When I went to Senior Signing Day, I got to see all the thousands of kids that attend YES Prep and have that same incredible opportunity and support.