Ellen Ochoa Elementary – Melissa Yates, second grade
Melissa Yates was named the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year at Ellen Ochoa Elementary, where she teaches second grade.
“I was born and raised in Tulsa, OK and I care about the students and families who live here,” Yates said, “I continue to work as a teacher in Oklahoma because I want to make a difference in my community. I went back to school to become a teacher because I knew how much education helped my family and can help other first-generation students like myself. My mother made sacrifices to prioritize my education and showed me the value and impact it can have on someone’s life.”
Yates didn’t start out at a teacher, however.
“My career began in criminal justice, and after 15 years, I decided to change my focus to working with children in the community,” Yates said. “I knew the classroom was where I could help children the most so, I began teaching in 2018 at Ellen Ochoa, which was my first teaching position.”
Like many Union teachers, reading is special for Yates.
“It may sound simple, but my favorite classroom activity to do with my students is to read to them. Reading is one of the most important activities anyone can do with their students,” Yates said. “When I read stories to them, I connect with them, and they connect with each other. They can see themselves in books, they can feel the same feelings as characters in stories, and sometimes we just like to laugh and be silly with a good book.”
Yates graduated from Northeastern State University in 2018 with a master’s degree in education, with an emphasis in reading. She is certified as a reading specialist in elementary education, and English as a second language.