Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
 

Getting past 90 is a good run, but still …

So I got the word this afternoon that my high-school drama teacher, Jo Yeager, died yesterday. Even though we haven’t been in touch regularly — I skipped two years of visits home because of the pandemic, and she’s not online — I miss her. Much like Greg Hatcher, “Mama Jo” was an inspiration and support for so many students, for so many years. I love her.

So here’s a post I wrote on my own blog after a visit home in 2015:

“One of the pluses of my trip to Ft.Walton Beach recently was that I got to spend lunch with my former drama teacher Jo Yeager (seen here with her husband Marvin). Which my birthday reflections put me in mind of because her classes made me a big part of who I am today.

I took my first class from Jo, oral communications, in 11th grade, followed by two or three more of her classes senior year. At the time of my first class, I was very, very, shy and kind of emotionally wihdrawn. Not shy about performing or speaking in public — heck, I did my first school play when I was 7 — but around people.

Jo’s classes were tailor-made for me. The subject made them freewheeling and fun, compared to say, math (though Mrs. Almond, one of my math teachers, was awesome too). There were lots of chances to work with other students, collaborate, practice, joke around and just talk. Which is not to say we didn’t work or that Jo didn’t exercise control. The classes weren’t anarchy. But they were, by the standards of the time,  unconventional. And they made hanging out with other people and talking surprisingly easy. Obviously some of the credit goes to my classmates, who were a great group. Jo attracted good kids.

Plus,  performing and public speaking are things that I’m good at. Which meant I had people applauding me and laughing when I did something funny, and that was cool too. And because of Jo’s training, I got better at it. There were school plays and forensic (public speaking, not police science) competitions, which gave me places to go and fun things to do outside of classes.

Being in Jo’s classes was my first step into a wider emotional, personal world. It took a lot more steps, but that first leap took me a long way toward becoming me.

Wherever you are now, Mama Jo, I hope you know how much we appreciated you.

#SFWApro.

3 Comments

  1. As this was so much about what she meant to me, I should add a few things about Jo.
    She was a terrific teacher.
    A good actor.
    Excellent director.
    Her marriage lasted somewhere over 50 years.
    She published a children’s book just a few years ago.
    Even at her age, she never wound up just watching TV all day as some older friends/relatives of mine do.
    She left behind a legion of people who love her, miss her and were shaped into better people.

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