Jen Yolles, Beaver’s influential and innovative Upper School drama teacher, is celebrating her 20th year teaching at the school. Recently, one of her former students, Tom O’Neill ’05, interviewed Jen about her time at Beaver. Below is an excerpt of that interview, which includes Jen’s four teaching fundamentals. You can read Tom’s full interview with his teacher, mentor, and friend here.
When I look back at my high school years, I consider myself lucky. I had incredible teachers who I learned so much from and who helped me grow as an individual.
But there is one determining factor that separates them all from Jen Yolles.
Jen is not only a brilliant instructor, coach, advisor, and director, but she is also a wonderful friend. From day one of freshman drama class, I realized the class was like no other on my schedule — for that year or the following three.
Although a lot has changed at Beaver in the 10 years since I was a student, the core of what Jen teaches — the fundamentals of being a good performer as well as a good person — remain the same.
Be punctual. 95 percent of life is showing up, and Jen expects her students to be on time and ready to work at the start of class.
Leave it at the door. Jen is aware life exists outside her classroom, but she asks her students to leave their stresses and deadlines at the door in order to get good work done. And if they can’t, she helps them work through their troubles.
Honesty. Jen emphasizes the importance of character — being true to yourself and those around you is the key to success and to being proud of your work. “Just be a good human being,” she says. “That’s what I care about.”
Work ethic. Jen expects the best from her students. And they bring it. “I never remember an instance of a student being unprepared for Jen,” O’Neill said.
– Interview and Article by Tom O’Neill ’05