Interview with Johnie Flores, Principal, YES Prep North Forest Elementary
Johnie, tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a large family – altogether we are four brothers and three sisters, and I am the baby of my family. We lived in a tiny house on three acres of land on the Northeast side of Houston. Our first house had only two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. We kept old newspapers between the walls that served as insulation when it was cold, and I spent a lot of time outside since there was a lot more room to move out there. We lived on so much land because we kept horses, goats and sometimes chickens on our property. (If you’re from the Northside, you totally understand where I’m coming from!) Over time, we built a larger house next to our first house, but my family stayed on that property until I graduated from college.
My father grew up as a migrant worker with his family until he contracted polio. Once he recovered, he moved to Colorado and began working at the age of 15 on a ranch. Ultimately, he ended up working at the Port of Houston, where he met my mom. My mother’s side of the family are enrolled members of the Chickasaw Nation, a tribe that was re-located to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. My mom was an accomplished musician and accountant for the Port of Houston. Both of my parents were ALWAYS working as I grew up, so my strong work ethic and independence are a natural result of seeing them work so hard to provide for us.
Both of my parents were ALWAYS working as I grew up, so my strong work ethic and independence are a natural result of seeing them work so hard to provide for us.
You mentioned you grew up in Northeast Houston, what school did you go to and what college did you attend?
I graduated from C. E. King High School and was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I went to the University of Texas at Austin and received a degree in Creative Advertising and later went to the University of Houston Main Campus to earn a Master of Education in Social Justice.
I first learned about YES Prep in 2012 while I was finishing my master’s. There was an Instructional Coach position open and I was excited to apply! I made the decision to join Teaching Excellence (YES Prep’s alternative certification program) as an Instructional Coach that year because I believe teachers are some of the biggest influencers in a child’s life. I hoped that by supporting teachers through instructional coaching, I could positively impact more students across Houston.
Share with us your trajectory with YES Prep.
I have now worked at YES Prep for eight and a half years. In my time with YES Prep, I have been an Instructional Coach, Dean of Instruction, Director of Academics, Resident Principal, Interim Director of Student Services and Interim Principal. Fun fact, I have now officially worked at Home Office, Brays Oaks, Northwest, Northbrook High School and North Forest Elementary!
You participated in YES Prep’s Resident Principal program. Can you share your experience?
My time as a Resident Principal was a hands-on learning experience that was bookended by intense self-reflection. I originally applied for the Resident Principal program because I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and I wanted to be able to impact an entire community. The Resident Principal program didn’t disappoint! During my time as a Resident Principal, I built strong relationships with fellow Residents, learned how to be okay with using my strengths to lead, and learned a whole new set of skills that will be applied to North Forest Elementary.
During my time as a Resident Principal, I built strong relationships with fellow Residents, learned how to be okay with using my strengths to lead, and learned a whole new set of skills that will be applied to North Forest Elementary.
And now you are getting ready to open YES Prep North Forest Elementary as the founding principal. How exciting! What plans do you have for elementary school?
North Forest Elementary is a welcoming and safe space that supports the development of the whole child. We understand that the foundation of a student’s relationship with learning starts at the elementary level. As such, it is our responsibility to ensure that North Forest Elementary is a place where the joy of learning is instilled early on. We will do this by offering students a variety of learning experiences that will engage them and prepare them to live a choice-filled life.
As you prepare to open in August 2021, what message do you have for potential North Forest Elementary teachers and staff?
I am looking for a diverse staff that is reflective of the community we serve. Teachers should be ready to learn on the job, work hard and have fun. Flexibility, persistence, and kindness are the superpowers that will make teachers successful at North Forest Elementary!
I’m passionate about leading North Forest Elementary because, as a product of Northeast Houston schools, I firmly believe the community deserves an excellent elementary school.
YES Prep is where “Passion Meets Purpose.” What are you passionate about?
I show up to work each day because I love creating unique experiences that push EVERYONE in the building (staff and students) to learn, to feel connected to each other, and to find joy each day. I’m passionate about leading North Forest Elementary because, as a former student of Northeast Houston schools, I firmly believe the community deserves an excellent elementary school. For teachers seeking to be a part of this important and incredible experience, I urge them to apply for a teaching position at North Forest Elementary!
Teacher Application Now Open!
The 2021-22 teacher application is now open! We're accepting applications for grade levels Pre-K through 12 at our 23 campuses across Houston. If you or someone you know is looking for a career where you can make an impact, apply today to join the YES Prep team, where your passion meets purpose. Immediate openings are also available for select roles.