Eleven years ago, Yom Odamtten Fox, a history teacher at the Dalton School in New York, applied to be GDS’ high school principal. After being told that she needed ten years of administrative experience, she went to her boss at the time and asked, “What do you think I need to do to grow into this role?”
Since then, Fox has worked as Dalton’s director of community and global initiatives and interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion. She will be starting as GDS’ high school principal in July.
Fox first became interested in coming to GDS after meeting math teacher Kate Rueter in 2007 at a program called the Klingenstein Summer Institute for Early-Career Teachers, which Fox described as “teacher camp.” She was told by Reuter that GDS was “a great place” and after doing some research she realized she wanted to come to the school.
Fox told the Bit she was recently looking at old emails from when she first applied to be GDS’ principal and found a note she wrote to a friend saying, “If I don’t apply for this job, at this time, I’m really gonna regret it.” Fox said her friend responded, “It’s a perfect fit for you.”
According to Fox, what attracted her to GDS was that it is not only intentionally diverse “but really committed to living its mission” by way of its programming and hiring practices. She said that after ten years of looking from a distance, she has appreciated that “GDS is not a school that rests on its laurels” but is always looking for ways to improve.
The Dalton School made national news in 2020 after a group of teachers circulated a document listing ways the school could combat racism. Fox stepped into her role as Dalton’s interim director of diversity, equity and inclusion since then. She has helped create “Dialogue Labs” for students to discuss a range of topics, including affirmative action and the school’s history. Dalton senior Emma Fusco told the Bit that the labs have been very effective at fostering important conversations.
“She is the person who will stop everything and sit and talk with a child who may be upset or in need of guidance,” Dalton’s high school director, Celeste Herrera, said in a telephone interview with the Bit. “She loves to center the student voice first.” According to Herrera, Fox helped to create a feedback process for students to better guide their teachers and improve the learning process.
Fox, an avid Peloton Bike rider, said she just finished her 3,500th ride and tries to ride “at least 20 miles every day.” Over the pandemic, Fox was asked to participate in an ad campaign by members of the Peloton staff who were impressed with her commitment. After multiple preparatory Zoom calls, she and her family appeared in an online promotional video.
Fox said that after seeing Peloton Bikes in the GDS lower and middle school, she came home and told her daughter, who responded, “It’s like they knew you were coming.”
Fox has three children: nine-year-old Poppy, seven-year-old Ollie and four-year-old Benji, all of whom are considering GDS.
Dalton history teacher Shira Kohn said that Fox is someone she goes to “for what I would call ‘real talk.’ She is someone whose opinion and moral compass I trust more than almost anyone else.”
“She herself is very confident—she’s encouraged me to be a more confident, a more self-advocating person,” Dalton junior Michael Jiang, Fox’s former advisee, said.
“I think she balances business and fun very well,” Dalton senior Teddy Benchley, a student and former advisee of Fox’s, said. Benchley called Fox one of the kindest people he has met.
When asked about her plans for the GDS high school, Fox said that before she identifies areas of change she wants to hear from members of the community. “I have to be present and be visible and form relationships,” she said. “I don’t want to be holed up in my office by myself, answering emails or running from meeting to meeting.”
Fox said she can’t commit to teaching a class by herself in her first year, but she looks forward to possibly co-teaching a course with permission from the history department. Currently, she teaches world history and a history elective called Thinking Globally, Acting Locally that focuses on community service. In the past, she has taught courses on race and gender representation in media, Afro-Caribbean literature and the musical Hamilton.
“I hope that people come up to me and say hi, knock on my office door, invite me to lunch,” Fox said. “I really am just looking forward to meeting people and getting to know the community better.”
CLARIFICATION (March 13): A previous version of this article mentioned that Fox realized she wanted to come to GDS after meeting math teacher Brooke Coleman in 2007. Coleman did not start at GDS until 2013.