George Lucas Educational Foundation

YES Prep Hires and Supports Great Teachers

In a school where students and staff alike give 100 percent every day, teacher support and a strong community are key. More to this story.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Teacher: All right, if you still need to record, your books are in this little closet right over here, so--

Narrator: One of the key ingredients to success at YES Prep North Central, is the caliber of the teachers here.

Teacher: Any questions before I--

Chris: YES was founded by teachers. We wanted to create an organization that was going to be able to be a good place for teachers to work, where teachers could have a voice in how the school was run, that it was a place where every decision was made in the interest of what's going to be great for kids and teachers.

Rachel: Talk about that with your table. What are the problems that might come up.

Jeremy: We know that teachers are the single greatest factor in the achievement of a low income students. And so if we can go out there and make sure that we find a great teacher for every single classroom, then we will be able to continue to send 100 percent of our kids to college.

Teacher: Like, what is this poem about? Don't worry about--

Narrator: In order to build a great team, YES Prep developed a list of traits that they are looking for in the teachers they hire.

Mark: We hired an outside organization to come in and look at our teachers and find out, like, what are the traits that really represent our highest performing teachers, and then we look at those traits when we interview, and we try and make sure that thank you people we bring in have each of those seven traits.

Narrator: The traits include, rebound time.

Mark: How quickly our teachers, after a setback, bounce back, and are ready to keep going.

Narrator: Energy mode.

Jeremy: Because we have a longer school day, and a longer school year, our teachers are going to have to sustain energy and passion over an entire school year.

Teacher: Get down, get down, get down.

Narrator: Taking charge.

Mark: We're looking for teachers as leaders. They don't see themselves as just teachers, they're people who see that classroom as an opportunity to lead.

Narrator: Agreement.

Jeremy: Well, we're not looking for somebody who just wants to shut their door and teach those kids, we're looking for somebody who's going to go across the hallway or across the grade level, to have conversations with other teachers.

Teacher: And I'm sure we can probably collaborate and share challenges on this, too.

Narrator: Perfectionism.

Teacher: I think it's really important that they aren't ever satisfied with 99.9 percent. We're looking for the 100 percent every day.

Narrator: The other traits are, drive, which entails the continual setting and achievement of personal goals, and reserve, which YES calls the ability to share their opinions.

Teacher: I liked when we had time to work on things.

Teacher: And again, this is just proposed. No decisions have been made, but it's the time of the year to do these things, because we have to finalize the schedule, actually within the next couple of weeks.

Narrator: To balance the longer work days and high expectations, the administration built a support structure to ensure the teachers have the resources they need.

Craig: Burn out is something we have to deal with, but we work hard as administrators to find ways to relieve teachers and try and provide some balance in a job that's inherently unbalanced.

Philip: Maybe if we could just take five minutes on our own, and just write some thoughts on the pros and cons.

Narrator: YES Prep's support system includes a full time Dean of Instruction, who directs professional development.

Teacher: I want you to read the first paragraph.

Narrator: Michelle LaFlure, observes a classroom instruction, and gives feedback to veterans and new teachers alike.

Michelle: We have a pretty intensive rubric that we use, so I go into every classroom approximately five times a year. The majority of my time is spent observing and debriefing with them.

And after we talk about high expectations for this particular lesson, then we'll go into student centered classroom, which is--

We want to give them a comprehensive evaluation, not just one that's solely based on instruction, and so we look at instruction, management, assessments, planning--

There's some key takeaways so that you can write down key takeaways from this meeting, and then we'll establish some action steps also.

Narrator: Teachers also have nearly two hours each day for team and grade level planning meetings during the extended school day.

Teacher: Tuesday, you are doing, What is Poetry, and the Go Inside poem.

Michelle: Having that common planning time, just enhances the collaboration among the team, but also, great minds, when they work together, are able to accomplish so much more than just an isolated individual, working on something.

Katie: I know we talked about you maybe writing poems for the lesson. Do you still want to do some of that?

With the team teaching relationship, we're looking for possible points of integration, but I also have planning time with the other seventh grade English teacher, so we're teaching the same thing. So at that point, we're dividing up relationships, and we can literally do double the work, because we split up things like lesson plans, making projects, organizing exhibition.

Narrator: There's no top down management here. All YES Prep teachers have a voice in setting school policies, which results in a vibrant energetic democracy.

Teacher: It would be great if we actually voted as a staff, of the things that we want to learn and then make those into goals.

Jeremy: You know, it's challenging for me, sometimes, as a leader, because your tendency is to want to keep control of everything. And the more that I sort of keep the authority to myself, and keep the decision making to myself, the more likely our school is to become stagnant, and just become basically a microcosm of me, and that's the last thing I would want. And so I intentionally hire people who are different from me, I intentionally look for ways to have people in my school who push me.

Teacher: That way, by the end of the year, every teacher, at least once, got to go to exactly what they needed to.

Jeremy: We also have a weekly early dismissal on Wednesdays, where teachers gather to do professional development, and sometimes we'll do something fun, like have a staff game, or a staff picnic, or a staff barbecue, just something to continually draw on our strength of relationships with each other.

All: [cheers, applause]

Michelle: I'm going to have you guys reflect a little bit individually about what worked and what didn't work so well. And then we'll have a discussion, to kind of come away with some ideas for things that can change for next--

Narrator: The structured teamwork and support at YES Prep, enhances camaraderie and mutual respect.

Michelle: So if you have any ideas, you can e-mail Mark.

Katie: I love the freedom that I'm given here. I love the fact that the sky's the limit. I mean, there's literally no end to what I can accomplish here. I feel like there's leadership opportunities for me, I feel like there is support, there's people I love, and so I'm exhausted all the time. I mean, it's a really, really hard job, but I am always driven to do more.

Craig: And a quarter of a clap for Peck, one-two--

Narrator: At the end of each long week, the staff gets together for shout outs, to acknowledge their hard work and collaborations that go beyond the call of duty.

Teacher: So Holly was planning portfolios, getting stuff ready for the Spring trip--

Craig: At first, the staff was like, why are we doing this, this is kind of strange. But for me, it is one of the highlights of the week. It is fun on Fridays to get together after a grueling week, which it is here at YES, to shout each other out.

Teacher: She's been able to juggle a thousand different things.

Craig: And they range anywhere from, you know, I want to thank so-and-so, for covering my class when I had a Parent come in, to, I want to thank so-and-so for bringing me a cup of coffee this morning, I really needed it.

Craig: Two claps and a train for Holly, one-two.

All: [clapping] Choo-choo, come on, ride it.

Teacher: The students now have adopted it. Every grade level does the exact same thing, and not only the North Central Campus, but some of the other YES schools have adopted this idea of the two claps for.

Teacher: And I just think that's true of pretty much everyone in this room, that, every time I see Craig, I'm uplifted and excited, and thank you for that.

Craig: Two claps and a bow for me. One-two, [clapping].

Narrator: For more information about, What Works in Public Education, go to

Get Video
Embed Code Embed Help

You are welcome to embed this video, download it for personal use, or use it in a presentation for a conference, class, workshop, or free online course, so long as a prominent credit or link back to Edutopia is included. If you'd like more detailed information about Edutopia's allowed usages, please see the Licenses section of our Terms of Use.


Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Coordinating Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy

Production Assistant

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Thomas Waldron
  • Mark Angelo


  • Kris Welch

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Click on any of the titles below to download a PDF of one of YES Prep's many resources.

Teacher Development

Teacher Traits 75K
Seven characteristics of the most effective YES Prep teachers, determined by an independent study of YES teachers and used in recruitment and hiring

Teacher Summative Evaluation Rubric (Blank) 620K
Form for teachers, completed at year's end

Teacher Summative Evaluation Rubric (Example) 656K
Form for teachers, completed at year's end

Walk-Through Observation Form 1.4MB
Short-form classroom evaluation

Full Observation Evaluation Form 664K
Long-form classroom evaluation

Focused Observation (Example) 1.3MB
Evaluation form for a particular area for teacher improvement

Postobservation Conference Plan 93K
Conversation guide

Professional-Development Calendar 1.4MB
YES Prep North Central, 2008-09

Rounds Program Overview 113K
Overview of YES Prep North Central's medical-school-style rounds program

More at How YOU Can Do It: YES Prep Resources and Downloads


Take the YES Prep Quiz: Top Teacher Traits to see if you match the YES Prep profile.


What do you think of Schools that Work?
Tweet your answer to @edutopia or post your comment below.

Comments (1) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

"Professor" Paul GTO Briones's picture
"Professor" Paul GTO Briones
Host and Co-Creator of Virtual Science University & Pre-AP Science Instructor

I think this type of discourse is ideal for any school system to succeed! It goes hand in hand with the posting I put on my blog about Science Department Chairs and Science Curriculum Coordinators taking the time to plan and engage their department about delivering high quality instruction before the beginning of the new school year and throughout the year!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.