A Fun YOMpilation
A few minutes into a conversation with Yom Odamtten Fox, it’s clear that the new GDS High School principal appreciates a well-structured narrative. When she’s not reading a good book, she’s listening to a podcast, perusing a short story, or perhaps watching celebrated actors read from short stories at the Symphony Space arts center (a favorite pastime when she lived in NYC.)
And she’s always on the lookout for David Sedaris.
If the award-winning humorist reads his work to live audiences wherever she’s living, Yom shows up. Every year since 2004, she has attended a Sedaris reading or book signing. His books line a shelf in her home, and wedged between them is a keepsake box with trinkets from her wedding, her children’s first sonograms—and Sedaris ticket stubs.
What is it about the author? “He shows in his writing that it’s okay to be complicated,” says Yom. “He writes about himself, his family, his friends in a way that can seem deprecating. Maybe he’s saying something uncomfortable. But you still lean in because there’s a great amount of vulnerability in the sarcasm and humor he presents. I have profound respect for that.”
Perhaps it’s all that time with Sedaris and his books, but Yom too has a knack for telling a good story. Here are snippets of the ones she shared about herself with Georgetown Days:
She spent a year in Ghana.
“I am the only member of my family born in the United States,” said Yom, who was raised in Clinton, New York. Her parents are from Ghana, and her two older siblings were born and raised there. “I was the only one who didn’t have that experience,” she added. Yom’s parents sent her to Ghana to attend sixth grade. While English is the country’s official language, this small sub-Saharan nation is home to about 50 indigenous languages, and Yom is familiar with some of them. “I understand more than I am able to speak,” she said.
She was a yoga instructor.
Yom received her yoga certification in Denver but started teaching in New York when she was a graduate student in need of a part-time job. (Yom earned an M.A. in Teaching Social Studies and an M.Ed. in Private School Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College.) “I answered an ad on Craig’s list, and the [now defunct] David Barton Gym in Chelsea hired me,” Yom said. “It was quite the scene. The gym had a huge disco ball and giant skulls for door handles.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper and actor Ethan Hawke were regulars.
She has taught English and/or History for the past 18 years.
Yom honed her teaching skills in California, Colorado, Connecticut and, most recently, at The Dalton School in New York. At Dalton, she was hired as a history teacher, but her role evolved to include coordinating K-12 service learning and running the global initiatives program. She then served as Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. High school is her happy place, even when she herself was a teenager. “Those four years hold so much potential. Academically, socially, physically,” Yom said. “To get to be a part of someone’s life in those moments? What an amazing gift!.”
She gave teachers a summer assignment.
Before the school year started, Yom asked the High School teachers to complete a few workbook exercises, encouraging educators to reflect on how their values, identity, behaviors, and cultural frame of reference relate to their work. “To cultivate an inclusive school community, we need an environment of active engagement and purposeful exploration that requires the ability to look at the world from various perspectives,” Yom said. “We can then model that to students and create classrooms and spaces in school that seek to validate and affirm students’ varied experiences. But it requires us to stretch and be vulnerable.”
That Peloton ad.
By now, some of you may know that Yom was featured in Peloton’s 2021 Superbowl ad campaign, all because she completed the company’s phone survey. A work crew set up shop in her cramped New York City apartment for 12 hours, at the height of COVID-19 pandemic, to shoot the one-minute spot. In the ad, Yom is seen huffing and puffing on her Peloton, teaching on Zoom, and tending to her kids–Poppy, Ollie, and Benji–in between.
- High School