She was born and raised in Northern Ireland. She graduated from Queen’s
University of Belfast with an honors degree in English and Education. She began
her career as an English teacher in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and like so many
Irish people, she was drawn to the dream of America.
She arrived in the United States in 1987, where she eventually found work as a
substitute teacher in the Madison School District. Eager to learn all she could
about K-12 education, she held a variety of teaching positions at the elementary,
secondary, and post-secondary levels. She has served in the Washington,
Madison, Paradise Valley, and Roosevelt school districts and has served as an
adjunct English instructor for Mesa and Glendale Community Colleges. She has
also served as an adjunct professor for University of Phoenix and Western
Yvonne has spent the last decade working in charter schools, and is currently
the principal of the Early College High School at GateWay Community College.
Since she arrived at GateWay, the school’s attendance rate has risen from 50%
to 94% and the drop out rate has fallen from 30% to 4%. Recognized for her
leadership by the Department of Education Director’s Institute, she received the
2005 Leadership award. Her early college program has been recognized by the
State Board for Charter Schools as an example of the positive impact of charter
schools in Arizona.
Active in the community, Yvonne was instrumental in bringing Girls for a Change
to Phoenix and serves on the Advisory Board. Her advocacy efforts now focus
on supporting undocumented children who are in this country through no fault
of their own. Since September 2007, she has raised $86,000 in private
donations to support the cost of out-of-state tuition for the undocumented
children at her school. Most recently, Yvonne received the 2008 MLK Living the
Dream award from the City of Phoenix for her advocacy for undocumented
She compiled and edited the book Documented Dreams.
Yvonne Watterson (right)
Hispanic Institute of Social Issues