YES Prep Public Schools
Communications & Marketing

For over a decade, our amazing YES Prep teachers have been recipients of the prestigious Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards, which is awarded to committed, high-performing teachers throughout the Houston area. This year we are adding four more outstanding teachers to the fold!  

This August, each of our four teachers were surprised with a $25,000 life-size check from the Kinder Foundation while their principal, fellow teachers, family and students cheered them on. We were able to capture some of those special moments, check them out below. 

Presenting YES Prep’s 2022 Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards recipients: 

Kat Abe - Seventh & eighth-grade teacher, YES Prep Northbrook Middle  

Kate “Kat” Abe has led YES Prep Northbrook Middle in academic achievement. Since graduating from Middlebury College she has taught all eight years at YES Prep as a math teacher for seventh and eighth-grade Northbrook Middle students. She is a lifelong educator, and her results show, with 88% of her students passing this year’s spring Common Assessment, which is 16% above the district average.  

She is a role model in terms of her passion and dedication to the craft of teaching, and she advances the culture of the school by holding high expectations and leading with equity in mind.  

She is also an advocate for mental health and for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Kat’s greatest desire is that students leave her class feeling confident in math, and every year, she can transform mindsets and self-perceptions before students enter high school.  

How it feels to be a Kinder recipient: “I couldn’t register what was happening in the moment...I was really overwhelmed and happy to see everyone! I’m grateful to so many people who have helped me to get where I am today.”  

Justine Sanchez - Sixth-grade teacher, YES Prep Southwest Secondary 

Justine Sanchez has taught sixth-grade math for the past 10 years at YES Prep Southwest Secondary, where her students achieve jaw-dropping results year after year. She has been designated as an Exemplar teacher through the Teacher Incentive Allotment.  

During the 2021-2022 school year, her students achieved the highest results in STAAR scores for Math 6 within the district. She fully embraces virtual learning by creating resources that hold students and parents accountable for learning, checked in with every student every day, and communicated constantly with families to create a present learning environment.  

The amount of respect and admiration students have for Justine is heart-warming; because she is an extraordinary educator who intentionally cultivates strong classroom culture, while simultaneously being a stellar model for what academic success looks like for all her students. Justine is innovative, knowledgeable and a natural leader, and her impact is systemwide.  

What the Kinder Award means to me: “To me, the Kinder Award is not just a recognition of my hard work but my student's hard work, every day. I love teaching. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. This is a recognition that everything I’ve done in the last 10 years has made a difference and others see it as well.” 

Elizabeth Walthall - 11th-grade teacher, AP Statistics, Junior Seminar - YES Prep Northbrook High (Teach for America) 

Elizabeth Walthall is an educator of 11 years who has always been driven by relationships. She teaches Junior Seminar and AP Statistics at YES Prep Northbrook High and consistently achieves some of the highest scores in the district. Students in her classroom are not only taught how to understand statistics, but how it intersects with their view of the world.  She creates an environment where students are fully invested and engaged in rigorous mathematical problem-solving.   

In Elizabeth’s classroom, students feel fully respected and cared for. For this reason, Elizabeth received the highest student survey results in all areas across the campus, where students rate various aspects of their relationships with teachers. Elizabeth is an educator who ensures her students grow a love of learning that propels them inside the classroom and beyond. 

How it feels to be a Kinder recipient: “I was completely shocked to win the Kinder Award! I did not even know I was nominated. This is a huge honor as I love teaching and I love my school. It feels good to feel appreciated and to be noticed and I'm excited to continue teaching for the foreseeable future.” 


Dylan Lewis, 10-grade teacher, YES Prep Northline Secondary (Teach For America) 

Dylan Lewis has been instrumental in ensuring high student achievement, creating a strong campus culture, and building relationships with students, families and staff at YES Prep Northline Secondary for the past five years. He was a founding sixth-grade English Language Arts teacher and creates transformational change. For example, he transferred from seventh grade English to 10th grade English II in the middle of October 2021. Not only did he dramatically change the culture of the classroom, but he also led his students to almost triple their passing rate on the Common Assessment and radically increased the meets rate from 12% to 60%.  

Dylan’s commitment extends beyond his own classroom. He has served as the seventh-grade level chair for three years and as the seventh grade English Language Arts course facilitator for the district. He openly embraces opportunities and creates experiences for students, like founding the cross-country team, leading international educational trips, hosting Honor Roll Parades, and countless after-school events. Dylan is a revolutionary educator that models how to do this work with unabashed joy and love for students and families.  

What the Kinder Award means to me: “Winning the Kinder Award really means a lot to me because it solidifies the amount of work, time and relationships that I have put into the community. I moved here from Mississippi, and I didn’t know anyone; So, a lot of the relationships I have built are with my students and their families as I live in the same neighborhood. I hope I continue to make them proud!” 

Congratulations to Kat, Justine, Elizabeth and Dylan! Thank you for all you do for our students and our families. 

About the Kinder Foundation 

The Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards has gifted approximately $4.5 million to over 287 teachers since the program was established in 2001. The program was created in honor of Kinder Foundation Chairman Rich Kinder’s mother, Edna C. Kinder, who taught special education for many years in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

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