New Teachers on the Block: Julian Yolles

When asked to describe his well-traveled life, Meridian’s new Latin teacher Julian Yolles can’t help but begin with a pun. “Well, it’s been a bit of an odyssey,” he said, referencing Homer’s famous epic and his own love of ancient literature. Julian’s passion for world languages reflects his international upbringing. Born in California, Julian moved to The Netherlands with his mother and grew up speaking Dutch; English was a second language he learned at school. Throughout his youth, he also lived for brief stints in both San Diego and Michigan.

When he was 17, Julian entered community college, where he had “fantastic teachers” who exposed him to ancient and medieval history. Julian’s passion for those eras inspired him to study them in their original languages: Greek and Latin. He began learning them on his own at first, and later pursued them more in depth at university. Although it’s hard to imagine a more scholarly field than ancient languages, Julian actually saw his passion as a “very tame form of rebellion” because his parents believed it was a useless pursuit. Forging ahead on his self-designed path, Julian ultimately earned a Bachelor’s in Classics and a Master’s in Theology before completing his Ph.D. in Medieval Latin at Harvard.

Julian says he loves the dual aspects of exploring the past and seeing how it impacts the present. He notices echoes of ancient civilizations everywhere, including current politics. For instance, after hearing reports of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death following her visit to the country, Hillary Clinton quipped to a reporter, “We came, we saw, he died,” referencing Julius Caesar’s famous statement, “Veni, vidi, vici,” or, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”

Appropriate to his subject matter, Julian uses the Socratic method in his classroom, continually asking questions as a way of imparting knowledge. Julian says that teaching at Meridian has been a lot of fun, and that his Latin students have challenged him to be quick on his feet. “There’s a lively interest and a very friendly atmosphere in the whole school,” he said, referencing the tight-knit community that originally drew him to Meridian.

Welcome, Julian! We are very glad to lend you our ears.