5 for 5 Spotlight: Kyrlyn Chatten, Greg Little, Liz Martinez, Emilee Simmons, & Holly Wright

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.

Kyrlyn Chatten has worked at YES Prep for 12 years. She currently works at the home office as the Director of Instructional Leadership.

Kyrlyn Chatten

Why YES Prep: I started teaching as a way to do my part to make the world more equitable and just. I started at YES to continue that work among fierce, wildly intelligent colleagues who are committed to the same vision. And I stay because I know that the people around me share an unwavering belief in the endless potential of every single student in our schools.

Favorite memory: Seeing students I taught come back to YES Prep to teach and lead. Every time I see their classrooms or their work with other teachers and leaders, it feels like I’m seeing ripples of a stone tossed years ago. I love seeing them as grown-ups, and I’m inspired by their work with their own students and their dedication to carrying the mission of YES Prep forward.

Greg Little has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. He currently serves as the Director of Student Support at Fifth Ward.

Greg Little

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep after falling victim to “last in, first out” policy in my former school district. Teach for America set me up with an interview at YES Prep with Luz Navarro, and I was hooked after my visit to YES Prep East End. Little known fact: I was not a supporter of charter schools before visiting and working at YES, and even asked TFA not to place me at a charter. I stay for two big reasons. First: our kids. We have the most amazing group of students and parents who push me (and challenge me directly) to be better. Second, I am surrounded by the most amazing group of friends (and co-workers) who are mission-aligned, and allow me to be authentically me every day. They allow me to occasionally break out in song, wear superhero capes down the hallway, come to PE classes on game days, and fight alongside me to ensure that our kids will have an even brighter future ahead of them. Why would anyone want to leave?

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories was when we took the Class of 2018 to Washington D.C. for spring trip. I had the opportunity to take a small group of boys to Baltimore. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m from Baltimore and knows that I adore “The Greatest City of America.” Sharing an important part of my life with them, including my high school, brought me immense joy. Shout out to the Class of 2018, our first graduating class! See y’all at Senior Signing Day!

Liz Martinez has worked at YES Prep for 12 years. She currently works at the home office as the Director of Student Information Systems.

Liz Martinez

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I believed and still believe in its mission. I was excited to see YES Prep expand in Houston and serve low-income communities just like the one I grew up in. The experiences I encountered being part of the opening of East End made me the hard-working and humble person I am now. Knowing that the work I do daily impacts students’ success at the campuses motivates me to work harder. I’ve had so many opportunities at YES Prep to grow and create new and innovative things.

Favorite memory: My favorite memory was the summer we opened the East End Campus. The school was located in a warehouse and we hardly had any furniture and supplies. Someone donated desks for our classrooms and we spent the first two weeks scraping gum off the bottom of over 100 desks! We painted each classroom and did everything possible to be ready for the first day of school. I will never forget that experience and the excitement of the new staff and parents. We knew it would become something special.

Emilee Simmons has worked at YES Prep for 11 years. She currently serves as a Learning Lab Specialist at Southeast.

EMILEE SIMMONS

Why YES Prep:  I started in 2007 and continue to stay because of the relationships I have made over the years. My team at Southeast is my extended family.  I love seeing my former students continue their education in college and beyond.  Each morning, I wake up and am proud to work for such an amazing school system, and I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Favorite memory: As a Learning Lab Specialist, I have the opportunity to work one-one with students on a daily basis. I have so many favorite memories at YES, but Senior Signing Day brings me so much joy! Watching my Learning Lab students hold up a sign and announce where they are going to college makes me feel so proud. I know that each student worked really hard to get to that point, and the #ALLMEANSALL slogan becomes a reality.

Holly Wright has worked at YES Prep for 13 years. She currently serves as the Director of Student Support at White Oak.

Holly Wright

Why YES Prep: I started to work at YES because I did service with students on Saturdays and they refreshed me. After finishing teaching in North Carolina as a corps member, I was always energized by the spirit and passion YES Prep students had! I stay at YES Prep because of the students, still. It is a privilege to work at a job that gives me more than I give it!

 Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories at YES Prep is doing a home visit for a student in our founding class, the class of 2020 at White Oak. The home visit sticks out to me because the student was the younger brother of a student I taught at North Central only a few years earlier. To see the full circle of YES Prep, not only in one family, but across the city was really inspiring. The work we do is truly far-reaching.

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