The Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards, established in 2001 by the Kinder Foundation, is a program concentrated in the Houston area that recognizes innovative and results-oriented teaching and raises public awareness of the importance of effective and committed teachers.
While on hiatus last year due to the pandemic, we are excited to announce that four of our teachers are recipients this year, including our first elementary school recipient. Each of the four teachers was surprised by their principal, fellow teachers and family at their school on August 2, 2021. During this time they were also presented with a $25,000 gift from the Kinder Foundation.
Without further ado, we are proud to present to you this year’s recipients.
Evelyn Gutierrez, kindergarten teacher
YES Prep Southeast Elementary
A founding bilingual kindergarten teacher at YES Prep Southeast Elementary (SEE), Evelyn recently completed her fifth year of teaching. In her short time at YES Prep SEE, She has supported her school community as a grade-level chair and currently serves as the Camp Chispas Coordinator. Evelyn has been an essential member of our campus as we navigated founding a school amidst a global pandemic. She is trusted by her leaders, colleagues and families because she is a fierce advocate for the students, families and teachers she serves.
Evelyn goes above and beyond her duty to provide our leadership team and the district with important feedback as part of the YES Prep Teacher Working Group. She is committed to helping build a team and family at YES Prep SEE where students thrive academically, but more importantly, leave her classroom a kinder and more resilient version of themselves than when they arrived.
Before her time at YES Prep SEE, Evelyn attended the University of Pennsylvania where she obtained her B.S. in Economics with a minor in Consumer Psychology in 2016. After graduating, Evelyn moved to Houston to work as a third-grade teacher through Teach For America (TFA). While teaching in Northeast Houston for four years, she served her school community in multiple capacities such as a grade-level chair and as a teacher mentor. She has also continued her work as a TFA alum and served as a bilingual content specialist, corps member advisor and leadership coach over the years. While working as an educator, she continued her education and obtained her M.S. in Education in 2021 from Johns Hopkins University.
Kellen Hayes, teacher, US History and AP World History
YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary
Kellen sets the bar for what excellent instruction looks like at YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary. He has been a teacher for the past 11 years. Prior to coming to YES Prep, Kellen served as an AP World History, US History and K-6 teacher in Memphis, Tennessee, and as a special education teacher for grades third through eighth in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Since the 2015-2016 school year, Kellen has served as a history teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks. He has taught AP World History, AP US History, US History and Government/Economics, often balancing three preps at a time. He has also served as our Varsity Boys’ basketball coach, 11th Grade Level Chair and member of the YES Prep Teacher Working Group.
Kellen is an inspiration to teachers and students on campus: he holds kids to exceptionally high expectations, demonstrates creativity and thoughtfulness about his craft, plans purposeful interventions, produces transformational student achievement results and builds impactful relationships with students as a leader on campus. Year after year, Kellen leads the system in student achievement results, including 85% of students earning a 3 or higher on the AP World History exam in 2020 and 94% of students earning a 3 or higher in 2018.
Rachael Morris (TFA), seventh-grade teacher, math
YES Prep White Oak Secondary
Rachael is the epitome of grit, grace and instructional excellence. She has been a member of YES Prep White Oak Secondary for seven years and has been a cornerstone of our program as the school has continued to grow and develop. Rachael has an uncanny ability to invest students in their own success and in making math SO fun to learn. She creates a culture of achievement in her classroom by consistently using a hands-on approach to learning and spending time in class each day valuing the effort of her students.
When it comes to the achievement of our kids, Rachael has consistently proven that no obstacle is too great to overcome. She has set a positive tone for our school by implementing several successful practices to respond to the varied instructional and behavioral needs of students in her classroom. She understands the community we serve, and she recognizes the need to innovate her instructional practices to help students access the math content. This investment and connection to the holistic needs of students have led to wonderful improvements in math abilities that have translated into positive academic results for the students in her classes. She sets the bar for exceptional classroom instruction that prepares her students for success on crucial assessments.
Rachael is a true leader who always has the best interests of the students, White Oak and YES Prep at heart. Her greatest asset is that she is humble and willing to do whatever it takes to improve her team, her leadership and her practice as a math instructor. Rachael’s willingness to contribute, commit and support is greatly appreciated. That combination of attributes will serve Rachael well into her future in education and truly makes her an asset to the White Oak team.
Kyle Stallard, teacher, physical education
YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary
Kyle’s classes are the exemplar for what can happen in physical education (PE). He has supported YES Prep since the fall of 2012 as a representative from the Baylor College of Medicine at the East End Secondary, Southeast Secondary and North Central Secondary campuses. He has served as a PE teacher at YES Prep since 2013, first at Southeast Secondary and then from 2015 onward at Brays Oaks.
In his tenure as a PE teacher and YES Prep-wide PE course leader, Kyle built strong system-level programming for health and wellness that has led to transformational change in the lives of so many students. Kyle is driven by the belief that the purpose of secondary PE courses is to ensure that every student is equipped with the mindsets and skills to make healthy nutrition and fitness choices. He regularly describes that he is not motivated by developing star athletes, but rather by inspiring the student who may not otherwise believe in their ability to live a healthy life.
During his time at YES Prep, Kyle has raised over $100,000 for the PE program across the system, implemented a data-driven program where students continually receive feedback on their heart rate during exercise (similar to an Orange Theory Fitness class) and partnered with the University of Houston to engage in nutrition instruction for our students. He has implemented staff-facing initiatives to promote healthy habits including morning CrossFit workouts and a healthy snack bar. During the 2018-2019 school year, 78% of overweight/obese students maintained or decreased their BMI-Z score across all of YES Brays Oaks middle school and high school students enrolled in a PE class, over 28% above his original goal.
Congratulations to Evelyn, Kellen, Rachael and Kyle! Thank you for all you do for our students and our families.
To learn more about the Kinder Foundation and the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award, click here.