5 for 5 Spotlight: Seeta Menon Estrada, Steff Fluke, Stephanie Gounder, Caitlin Wales, & Sarah Warner

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.

Seeta Menon Estrada has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. She currently serves as a Dean of Instruction at North Central.

Seeta Estrada

Favorite memory: This is my favorite year at YES Prep because I’m teaching AP Literature to students who I first taught in sixth-grade reading six years ago! I have a student who excels in AP Lit who came to our school reading at the fourth-grade level. Many of my current students needed additional comprehension support back in sixth grade; others have continued to love reading after all these years. It is so rewarding to see how the English team at YES Prep has prepared my former sixth graders for a rigorous college-level course. It is such a “full circle” experience, and I love every minute of teaching my driven, quick-witted, and adorable juniors.

Why YES Prep: Like many people, I started at YES Prep because I wanted a career that would be meaningful and allow me to do good. I stay at YES because I’ve found that career, and I get to work with other educators who are committed to growing and learning in order to do what is best for students.

Steff Fluke has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches AP Environmental Science and Environmental Systems at Southeast.

Steff Fluke

Favorite memory: Candance Daniel recently shared the same memory, but it is one we will never forget. On the second to last day of our trip, we were outside the Nationals’ Stadium getting ready to watch a movie in the park. One of our students got sick, and a teacher took that student to the hospital. The rest of us headed back to the hotel because it had started to rain. As we transferred metros, another student got sick and another teacher took this child to the hospital. When we finally made it to our station, a student had an asthma attack and another fainted. At this point, the children were starting to panic. From a combination of dehydration and poor food choices, other kids started feeling light-headed and fainting. I ended up in an ambulance with kids. In the end, everyone was safe and able to return to the hotel that night, but we were in the Washington Post the next day because they’d had to close down the metro station. Telling that story never gets old.

Why YES Prep: In my third year teaching at HISD, I started mentoring a new teacher at YES Prep North Central because YES needed more mentors. It was during that time that I met a lifelong friend, Peter Iverson, and truly learned what YES Prep was all about. After heading to grad school, I knew that if I returned to education, YES Prep was the only place for me. I stay here because of the kids. They bring joy to my life each day. It also helps that I have wonderful coworkers who are like family and that I get to teach the content that I love with an amazing content team.

Stephanie Gounder has worked at YES Prep for 8 years. She currently serves as School Director at Brays Oaks.

Stephanie Gounder

Favorite memory: Ever since our first graduating class, we’ve ended the school year with a Senior Walk during which all graduating seniors wear their caps and gowns and walk through all five floors of our building. All students and staff are stationed in the hallway cheering them on and giving high-fives. It’s a super inspirational, emotional, and exciting time!

Why YES Prep: I came to YES Prep after my Teach for America experience in Baton Rouge. My Assistant Principal at the time told me about YES Prep’s high focus on professional development and the commitment to excellence across all aspects of school. I stay because of the organization’s continual commitment to growth – we learn from our mistakes, constantly  strive to refine our programs and processes, and truly invest in our people.

Caitlin Wales has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches 8th grade Social Studies at North Central.

Caitlin Wales

Favorite memory: One of my fondest memories was last year during the 2016 cross country season. I had the opportunity to coach the same group of students from seventh grade all the way up to their senior year and last year was their final district meet. Having developed strong relationships with both the runners and their families, it was such an amazing experience for the boys to win a back-to-back district championship and to head to the state meet in their final year. I started at YES Prep as a sixth-grade teacher and I vowed that I was going to stay until my first group of sixth graders graduated in 2018 and, well, here we are! I am so excited to see this group that I have taught twice and seen grow tremendously over the past seven years walk across the stage and head out to take on the world.

Why YES Prep: As an education major in college I had never considered working at a charter school. Once I visited and started working here, however, I knew that it was a place I wanted to be for a long time. I love the daily challenges, the sense of community and the way that YES Prep incentivizes its teachers through the IER and teacher continuum. As an advanced teacher, I now experience a lot of autonomy in the classroom and opportunities for campus leadership that help to ensure that I am constantly growing and becoming a better teacher for my students and fellow staff members.

Sarah Warner has worked at YES Prep for 7 years. She currently teaches 8th grade Social Studies at Southeast.

Sarah Warner

Favorite memory: One of my favorite memories at YES Prep was taking a group of 50 students to the Galleria to go ice skating on a bid trip. It was enjoyable to recognize students for positive behaviors and have fun with them.

Why YES Prep: I started at YES Prep because I wanted to work at a school that was similar to my TFA placement school. I was in the Rio Grande Valley at IDEA Frontier when I completed my two year commitment with Teach For America, and after two years, I wanted to move to a major city in Texas. A lot of my friends in the RGV were moving to Houston, and I heard about YES Prep through one of my friends that was going through the application process. I have stayed at YES Prep because I believe in the mission and I love the students and staff at Southeast!

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