March is Women’s History Month and we asked four members of our social studies team to share what woman in history they admire and why it is important to learn about the contributions they have made. Here is what they had to say!
Kristina Yelton - social studies content director
Kristina Yelton shared that teaching social studies is a privilege. “I love teaching social studies because I introduce students to the world, both past and present. Through social studies courses, students gain important skills and context that will help them become informed and engaged global citizens.”
The women in history that Yelton admires are investigative journalists and publishers that throughout history have worked to educate the public by exposing injustices, uncovering corruption and telling stories of individuals who had been overlooked by others. Women like Ida B. Wells for her work in investigating the lynching of Black men after the Civil War, Ida Tarbell who’s writing contributed to the creation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who resisted White House pressure during the paper’s printing of the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate investigation.
Yelton emphasized the importance of elevating the contributions of women to inspire the next generation of leaders who will continue to fight for women’s rights around the world. “Both at home and abroad there’s a need for individuals who will help women gain rights in areas such as equal pay, bodily autonomy and educational access.”
Kristina Yelton graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in Metropolitan Studies. After college graduation, Yelton joined Teach for America and was placed in Houston as a sixth-grade social studies teacher. In 2010, she joined YES Prep as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at YES Prep West Secondary and since then has served in various roles such as dean of instruction at YES Prep Fifth Ward Secondary and social studies content specialist. Yelton currently serves as the social studies content director.
Anna Carothers - AP US History, Government and Economics teacher
Anna Carothers’ love for teaching social studies stems from her passion for politics and culture, particularly how social movements and public policy can create great change. “I believe that knowing our history can inform best decisions and practices in the present. Understanding the world around us allows us to be more empathetic and compassionate.”
The woman Carothers admires is Eleanor Roosevelt. “Eleanor reminds me of what it means to pursue knowledge, truth and justice amid struggles.” She noted that Roosevelt redefined the role of the First Lady as a more active and service oriented one. Her activism continued even after serving as first lady. She went on to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served on the board of directors for the Congress of Racial Equality.” Carothers shared that “as a society, we should honor women’s perspectives so that we can better understand discrimination and oppression of various kinds.”
Anna Carothers graduated from The University of Texas at Austin where she double majored in Plan II Honors and psychology and received a Master of Education. After graduate school, Carothers worked in the UT history department as a research assistant in African studies. Today, Carothers serves as an AP US history teacher and government and economics teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary.
Michelle Jackson, US History & AP US History teacher
For Michelle Jackson, teaching social studies opens doors to many areas of study and interest like history, geography and government. Learning history helps you understand the present and plan to make things better in the future. “I wanted to teach social studies because it teaches young minds not to accept things, but research and question why things are a certain way and help them understand the past to move forward into the future.”
The woman Jackson admires is gay liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson. “I admire Marsha P. Johnson because even during a time when she had to hide in the shadows because of who she was and how she identified, she still fought for what was right and fought for those just like her. She championed diversity and acceptance for all people including transgender women like myself. She is someone who I not only admire but aspire to be when I stand up for others and fight for visibility for people so their voice can be heard by all.”
Michelle Jackson graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in Criminology, Law & Society. After working at her alma mater, she joined YES Prep North Forest Secondary and currently serves as the US History & AP US History teacher.
Kayli Botiz, social studies dean of instruction, AP US History and CRUSH teacher at YES Prep Northbrook High
Kayli Botiz teaches social studies because of experiences she faced when she was in school. “I grew frustrated with my non-black peers who openly shared racially offensive statements, not understanding the historical context of what they just said.” Social studies teaches students the why. Why certain communities eat more seafood than others, why people vote for specific policies, why there’s a lack of funding for public education, why certain words/statements are considered offensive and why the representation of people like Maya Angelou in textbooks are so important.
For Botiz, the woman she admires is Maya Angelou, a renowned novelist, poet, playwriter, actress, singer and civil rights activist. Angelou is famously known for her poems “Phenomenal Woman,” “Still I Rise” and autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. Her poems and novels focus on the various experiences of black women in America including, but not limited to, racial oppression, sexism and stereotypes about black womanhood. “Maya Angelou’s ability to maintain grace, courage and her inner beauty while navigating a society that caused her both physical, mental and emotional trauma has not only influenced me but has inspired a future generation of women who have learned to turn their trauma into triumphs.”
As for women’s role in history, Botiz shared that women have both directly and indirectly influenced policies throughout the globe, even before they were unable to physically enter those policymaking spaces. Celebrating women’s contributions to culture, history and society means honoring women who have for so long been overlooked. It means elevating women who were either discredited or not acknowledged for the inventions, ideas and contributions they have presented to society. “Acknowledging and celebrating women’s history both empowers those who have made positive contributions to the world but also encourages young women and girls to continue positively contributing to society.”
Kayli Botiz graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies and Business Administration. She then attended Pepperdine University where she earned a Master of Arts in Entrepreneurship & Change. Botiz joined YES Prep Eisenhower High in 2019 as a US History teacher and now serves as a dean of instruction, AP US History and CRUSH teacher at YES Prep Northbrook High.
As we close out Women’s History Month, today and every day, we celebrate the women of the past, present and future.
Thank you to our social studies content team and teachers for sharing about their passion of teaching history and the women they admire.