For the first "Teacher Tuesday" of the 2018-19 school year, we catch up with Luke Yehlen, the educator working to make math fun.

By Rachel Shuster | Faculty, Upper School

Chat with almost any Upper School student this year, and ask them about their favorite class.

More often than not, Mr. Yehlen’s pre-calculus course gets a mention.

Some might find it odd — for most teenagers, math doesn’t exactly top the list of things making them smile. But Luke Yehlen aims to do just that.

“I aim to keep everything light,” Yehlen says with a smile. “I understand that math can be boring to a lot of people —if I’m not actively going out of my way to keep kids engaged, I’ll lose them. So I try to make class as project-based as possible, to make it more fun.”

That effort appears to be paying off — Yehlen’s positive rapport with the students is visible. Anytime he walks into the Dining Room during lunch or enters the stands at an athletic event, kids interrupt their own conversations to shout his name and wave across the room.

A few of Yehlen’s Upper School students hop in on his “interview” during volleyball practice.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Yehlen, in his mid-twenties, is relatively close in age to his students. Students cite Mr. Yehlen’s “man-bun” and interest in activities including hiking as some of the reasons they enjoy being around and learning from him.

Yehlen says he sees his youth as a benefit in his classroom, rather than a setback.

“On a personal level, I’m able to connect with the students a bit more than maybe someone who might be a bit older,” he explains. “I get the Internet, we’re into the same TV and music — and because of that, we can have conversations, and I’m able to keep them involved during class.”

Some of Mr. Yehlen’s underclassmen wanted to get in on this interview, to learn more about their favorite teacher. Here’s what they had to ask…

When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher? 
“I coached high school girls’ rowing during my senior year of college, and I really liked working with that age group. I knew similar skills translated into teaching, so I decided to go that route.”

When did you start growing out your hair? 
“It’s been about four years — I started growing it out a few months after I graduated from school.”

What is your favorite thing about TPS? 
“My favorite thing is the student body and all of the staff, and how the school really does feel like a family. I feel like I’m a part of something when I show up every morning. It’s nice to walk onto a volleyball court and have a million kids come up yelling my name because they’re happy to see me! It’s really cool.”


Did You Know: 2018 marks the fifth consecutive year that 100 percent of Prairie’s full-time faculty (including Mr. Yehlen!) made a gift to the Prairie Fund. Money raised through this initiative bolsters TPS’ budget, and provides crucial support for academics, arts, athletics, and co-curricular programming. Learn more and make YOUR gift by clicking here today!