Celebrating City Year alum Yvonne Garcia
“Yvonne is the teacher you wish you had,” describes Kristen McDonough.
Yvonne Garcia was honored with an Alumni Achievement Award at the 2022 City Year Alumni Leadership Awards, held late last year. The Alumni Achievement Award category honors an outstanding alum who served prior to 2015.
Yvonne’s journey as an educator started as a senior AmeriCorps member with City Year San Antonio where she was introduced to IDEA Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network, during a team building activity. After her service year, Yvonne decided to return to her hometown and become a teacher. Fifteen years later, she’s an award-winning educator in Mission, Texas, at IDEA. Yvonne has received multiple teaching awards, including: being honored as a Master Teacher twice, Teacher of the Year in 2018, five-time Advanced Performing Teacher, and 2011 Core Value Award for 100% Every Day.
Serving as an AmeriCorps member in San Antonio
Kristen McDonough and Yvonne served as AmeriCorps members at City Year San Antonio. Kristen describes Yvonne as a “fearless team leader who was inspirational, creative and fiercely committed to her students.”
At the heart of Yvonne’s service was building relationships with the team, students and school. As a team leader, Yvonne would always encourage her team to challenge themselves and go outside of their comfort zone. Kristen recalls how this led to the team working on various projects within and outside of the school they served, which allowed the team to get to know the community on a deeply personal level.
But at the core of service is remembering to have fun as a team!
“I vividly remember the days when we would meet together at the end of the day and just laugh together,” recalls Kristen.
From AmeriCorps member to teacher of the year
“Yvonne is the teacher you wish you had,” describes Kristen. Yvonne has been a teacher for the past fifteen years at IDEA. She has taught eighth, ninth and 10th grade English Language Arts as well as AP Language and Composition. Mission, TX, is located right above the U.S.—Mexico border. The majority of Yvonne’s students are Hispanic and often have difficulty learning English to pass state exams. But Yvonne has a passion for reading and writing that she strives to pass down to her students.
“She is tough, loving and innovative. When I say Yvonne is innovative, she is skillful in her ability to bring the books to life for her students. When students read about Henrietta Lacks, she and the students extract DNA samples from strawberries. When I tell you that Yvonne is tough and loving, she refuses to let her students fail.”
When Yvonne was offered a “leadership track” to become an assistant principal, she refused because she believes being a teacher is “just as powerful as being an administrator.” Yvonne pours her heart and soul into building relationships with her students to ensure their success in her class. She spends one-on-one time with each of her students, which has resulted in them having some of the highest ELA test scores in the state as well as 100% of them graduating from high school.
“I’ve done academy, middle school and high school. None of them are any easier than the other,” says Yvonne.
Teachers help their students dream big and reach their goals
Yvonne’s reach has also gone beyond her classroom walls. Along with being an English teacher, Yvonne has also served as a grade team leader, English content leader, teacher advisory council member, National Honor Society sponsor, critical student interventionalist, direct instruction leader, Model United Nations sponsor, a teacher mentor and regional 10th grade English content leader.
Some of the colleges Yvonne’s students attend include Texas A&M, Georgetown, Yale, Columbia, American University, Loyola, Tufts, Swarthmore and many more. But even after her students graduate and go off to college, Yvonne has continued to stay in touch with many of them. At the core of Yvonne’s work is instilling a sense of confidence in each of her students so they can dream big, regardless of their background.
“Yvonne’s impact will ripple out for many generations,” says Kristen.
Teachers wear many hats, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many difficulties that they experience.
“For those of you who are also in the thick of it right now, whether you’re a teacher or not, I want you to know that I believe in what you’re doing, and I believe that you’re making a difference,” encourages Yvonne. “And I thank you for being a part of how we shape our future.”
Learn more about our alums:
Nicole Tsang is a City Year New York alum and current City Year National staff member. She was honored with...Read more about Celebrating City Year alum Nicole Tsang
Compass Academy, a charter public school in Denver, is thriving by holistically supporting its middle school students, many of whom...Read more about Compass Academy develops leaders and learners
When our AmeriCorps members become alums at the end of the school year, they continue to lead and serve—bringing valuable...Read more about City Year alums: A lifetime of impact
As City Year centers equity in our research work, we’ve defined and adjusted new capacities: community-based action research, trend forecasting...Read more about How City Year centers equity and community in research