Celebrating Teaching Excellence Teachers’ Successes – TACA Interns of the Year

Every academic year, the Texas Alternative Certification Association, or TACA, selects and honors deserving teachers as “Intern of the Year”.  This distinction is awarded to individual novice teachers who have demonstrated proficiency and professionalism in their field and who are held in high esteem by their peers, administrators, and students.


To be eligible, the nominating program (in this case, YES Prep’s Teaching Excellence teacher alternative certification program) must be an active member of TACA and the applicants must either be enrolled in TACA-member alternative teacher certification program and employed on a probationary certificate or completed the program within the last year and currently be employed as a teacher.  Teaching Excellence’s candidates happened to win the top three awards! 




Third Place - Sarah Khan

Sarah Khan graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in government. In her junior year at UT she realized she actually wanted to be a teacher, inspired by how her science professor was able to turn a subject she considered herself weak in -science- and sparked a passion for it. Too late to change majors, and not to mention the time and financial implications, she decided to enroll in Teach for America which introduced her to YES Prep’s Teaching Excellence program.


“Teaching is a tough job, one of the hardest jobs that I have ever held in my life. Yet it is also the most rewarding job. Observing a child grow and truly invest in their own learning is something spectacular. While I still have much to learn in teaching, I believe that Teaching Excellence has provided the necessary tools to shape my path to becoming the best teacher I can possibly be.”


Kahn is currently in her second year of teaching 6th grade English/Language Arts (ELA) at YES Prep Northbrook Middle School. 


Second Place - John Ezaki

John Ezaki graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Biology with a focus on Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology. He too decided to pursue teaching at the end of his college career and felt earning a conventional teaching degree was not feasible due to financial reasons. By joining Teach for America as a 2014 New Orleans corps member, he was able to continue to work and support himself while also becoming a certified teacher.


“As a queer man of color growing up in rural California, I did not have a single teacher that looked like me or had the same sexual identity as me. I believe that it is important for students to see authority figures that have faced the same obstacles as them, can relate to their experiences, and can inspire them to overcome their challenges. I teach because I believe in supporting all kids and showing them that regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, with hard work and the right support, anyone can achieve their dreams.”


Today, Ezaki is an Algebra I teacher at YES Prep East End.


First Place - Sydney Grice

Sydney Grice graduated from North Carolina State University with a major in political science and minors in history and journalism. Throughout her academic life, Grice has gravitated towards opportunities focused in service, grassroots organization, and policy. Not wanting to limit herself to a singular academic pathway, she explored other disciplines like beekeeping, sports statistics, biological illustration, and even traveling to Petra, Jordan for an archaeological field school. While searching for a professional space, it wasn’t until late in her collegiate journey that she connected with Teach for America, and then Teaching Excellence.


“The opportunity to teach, was a chiasmic gift, where everything I ever wanted to do intersected. I have found that I am most fulfilled when doing something new and a little scary. Each day, walking into a classroom of a goofy, questioning, candid 5th graders is very scary. The responsibility of their education is a heavy one. Teaching provides the unique and powerful experience of shaping the way young minds see their opportunities, capabilities, and each other. I have worked to enrich their perspectives, activate their curiosity, and prepare them to take this knowledge outside the classroom. With every lesson, I am moved to recognize the potential in each of them. I am grateful to be a part of their lives as they seek out their own paths, creating meaning, and writing their individual stories.”


Grice has been an educator for two years and is currently teaching sixth grade English/Language Arts and Social Studies.


The winners of the TACA Intern of the Year were awarded a $1,000 check and trophy at the annual Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education CCSOTTE) conference on October 21st in San Antonio, Texas.


Teaching Excellence has now had six Intern of the Year recipients. In addition to this year’s three winners, Amy Kitchel, with YES Prep Gulfton, won in 2014-2015 and TaQuana Williams, with YES Prep North Forest, and Tia Leone, currently teaching at KIPP Houston Explore, won in 2013-2014.



Founded in 2004, Teaching Excellence is a teacher development and certification program at YES Prep Public Schools that provides rigorous and relevant training and individualized support that accelerates the development of novice teachers. Proven and adopted by schools aiming for higher standards, Teaching Excellence is responsible for the development of more than 300 teachers serving YES Prep, KIPP Houston, Spring Branch ISD, BakerRipley, Etoile Academy, and Yellowstone Academy.



As described on their website, “the Texas Alternative Certification Association (TACA) exists to champion alternative certification in Texas. We believe that a single action makes a difference, and a collective set of actions can lead to true transformation. Through advocacy, mentorship, and collaboration, our organization works to give alternative routes to certification a spot on the state stage. Our membership is the voice that advocates for a future teacher's ability to improve the educational outcomes of students.”


Have you considered becoming a teacher? Learn if YES Prep’s Teaching Excellence Alternative Certification Program is right for you. Click here to learn more.

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