Becoming a teacher: The story of Mr. Yanelli

As a former international businessman, it seems that Mr. Yanelli has seen all that the world has to offer. Yet, it’s being a teacher at Saint Stephen’s that has turned his lifetime dream into reality.


Courtesy of Mr. Yanelli

Mr. Yanelli and Mr. Aywua, the general manager of the Chuck E. Cheese’s in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Jules Pung, Staff Writer

Thirteen years after his arrival at Saint Stephen’s, Mr. Yanelli is still at the front of the classroom–and loving every minute of it. The students view the U.S. History and Economics teacher not only as an educator, but also as a mentor. Back in the 1980’s, however, you’d see him on his way to pursuing an international business career that would eventually take him to all 50 states and over 30 different countries around the world.

It’s clear that Mr. Yanelli’s journey to get to Saint Stephen’s was one with many twists and turns, but as those around him know, it’s one that has crafted him into a masterful storyteller, an inspiration, and, as History Department Chair Mr. Whelan said, “an indispensable member of the social studies department.”

As a business executive, I wanted to hire people with a broad interest in learning as well as the ability to look at complex problems from multiple perspectives… I also want my students to able to integrate their general knowledge across academic disciplines, which will allow them to be better problem solvers and better citizens. ”

— Mr. Yanelli, AP U.S. History and Economics teacher

Although Mr. Yanelli’s deep interest in the study of the humanities and social sciences began in high school, his father’s death when he was seven years old created a sense of financial insecurity during his formative years. As a result, he decided to pursue a career in business before following his dream to become a teacher. What he did not know at the time was that this business career would be a twenty year detour.

During all those years, however, Mr. Yanelli kept his dream of teaching alive by volunteering for many years at the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown in Boston. Each week he would read aloud to a third grade class (their favorite book was Mr. Popper’s Penguins) and he would also teach basic English grammar. As he looks back now, he realizes that if he had not taken time to do this volunteer work, he may have lost his innate desire to become a teacher. 

During an interview with The Gauntlet, Mr. Yanelli mentioned that he first attended Providence College in Rhode Island, where he studied accounting, but after two years he decided to transfer to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut to pursue the study of history, philosophy, and economics, three subjects that he still enjoys teaching today. 

While he never did end up becoming an accountant, he began working at Arthur Anderson and Co. in 1982, which was, at the time, the largest accounting firm in the world. Studying abroad in London during his junior year of college, however, sparked a desire to work internationally. And work internationally, he did.

Living abroad in Asia, Europe, and briefly in the Middle East, Mr. Yanelli estimates that he traveled well over 2.5 million miles in the air over a fifteen year period of time. During the span, he married his wife Marlene in 1985. They were married in Tokyo, Japan, where Mr. Yanelli was working as an international banker for the Bank of Boston, a bank that was founded in 1784, five years before the United States adopted the U.S. Constitution.

After his international banking career, he joined CEC Entertainment, the company that manages Chuck E. Cheese’s brand name. The last project he worked on before becoming a teacher in 2002 was overseeing the building of a 70,000 sq. ft. Chuck Cheese in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  

The Chuck E. Cheese’s in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

In addition to becoming a teacher, one of the life goals that Mr. Yanelli had was becoming a father. He found it very challenging to work as an international business executive and be a father at the same time. He was thus very glad to begin his teaching career at a charter school in Irving, TX, the North Hills School, in August, 2002. 

Even with his business career behind him, Mr. Yanelli found his past experience quite useful when he came to Saint Stephen’s in 2005. Often thinking of his students  as “potential future employees” as well, he still tries to fashion his lessons to include analysis of real world situations and problems.

“As a business executive, I wanted to hire people with a broad interest in learning as well as the ability to look at complex problems from multiple perspectives. Today, I try to teach with an eye toward getting my students to develop that same type of mindset.” he explained. “I also want my students to able to integrate their general knowledge across academic disciplines, which will allow them to be better problem solvers and better citizens.”

Mr. Yanelli then went on to explain why he loves teaching specifically at Saint Stephen’s.

“Every day I pinch myself; I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to teach at a school such as Saint Stephen’s, where I get to interact with intelligent, caring faculty members and hard-working, aspirational students. There is a unique culture at this school, where everyone–both students and faculty alike–seem focused on working toward the common goals of building a tight-knit community, while also preparing students for a college of their choice. I also love that the teachers here seem just as interested in learning as the students.”

Mr. Yanelli later told The Gauntlet that while his passion for teaching is certainly derived from his own love of knowledge, he largely gives credit to a lifetime of great mentors who have supported him in his journey. Like them, he strives to be a role model for his students and seeks to help them develop a mutual enthusiasm for learning.

“[What] I’m hoping [for] all of my students is that they see the pursuit of knowledge as a noble pursuit, and one that leads to a “good life.”