Mr. Steve Nowack, who started at Rabun Gap in 2010, is the Upper School humanities department chair. In his role as the humanities department chair, he has overhauled the ninth, tenth and eleventh-grade humanities curriculum to blend both English and history disciplines.
During his time here, Mr. Nowack has held a variety of roles; he started as a teacher at the Middle School and Upper School, was promoted to Middle School Assistant Head and eventually served as the Head of Middle School before taking on the role of Upper School humanities department chair. He also served as a Varsity basketball coach for three years. He has also worked as an athletic director and a sports information director prior to joining the Rabun Gap community.
In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Nowack is an assistant golf coach.
Mr. Nowack is close to entering his second decade of teaching and is well equipped to lead in the realm of education. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Cornerstone University and a Masters in Independent School Leadership from Mercer University. He was the STAR teacher at his school in 2007 and 2008, has presented at GISA and NAIS conferences and has facilitated faculty workshops around equity and inclusion, as well as curriculum development.
He lives on campus with his wife of twenty years Tammi and their four sons - Owen ’21, AJ ’22, Tyler ’26 and Phoenix ’31. He is originally from Medina, OH, and enjoys golfing and watching almost any sport. He also likes to stay on top of advancements in education by reading relevant materials about innovative teaching and learning.
What made you choose to work at Rabun Gap?
I had known Roger Cox for a long time and he kept telling me that we should come and check out the school because he had encountered nothing like it in his career. As soon as we arrived on campus, we felt the same. Having such a dynamic and diverse grouping of students and faculty, we immediately felt at home.
What did you do before coming to Rabun Gap?
I was an Upper School English teacher and varsity basketball coach. I also did radio for both our football and basketball teams.
What makes Rabun Gap special to you?
Easily it is the uniqueness of our campus. When you combine 52 countries with the economic diversity that exists with our financial aid, it provides a classroom experience that is unparalleled. Each day I learn so much from my students because each day students come from all over the world and share in our learning community.
What do you like most about working in the Upper School?
I have really relished planning and building our Humanities curriculum. While I have always been interested in curriculum design, creating three tiers of Humanities where gifted and amazing teachers are allowed to have smaller groups of students in twice the time allows for opportunities that I never dreamed would be possible in a typical upper school classroom.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I have always found personal fulfillment in investing in young people. There is such a vivacious spirit in students because they are constantly learning, constantly achieving, and constantly evolving in this time of their lives. I just relish the opportunity to be part of this growth and change, and it also keeps me driving to learn more and be better so I can enhance their upper school experience.
What is your teaching philosophy?
I have always found that the more I get out of the way and allow students to guide learning they inevitably find solutions that shape experiences in avenues that I had not planned. I firmly believe that the future is going to require students who are nimble and adaptable so I always want my class to be a place where students can safely explore these aspects of their personality without the fear of failure. When I am able to work with students and see the combination of adaptability and ambition collide, the results have been fantastic.
What is it like working at the same school that your sons attend?
I love working at the same school as my children. Rabun Gap is large enough that I don’t see them every day so they have plenty of autonomy, and it probably helps that I have also never taught them! I just like being able to see them often and with the busy boarding school schedule, it is nice to see them with regularity.
What were you like in high school?
Ha! I was a fairly solid student, and I also loved playing sports. I was a three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball, and baseball) but basketball was always my first love. I also really enjoyed hanging out with my friends, so I suppose I was a very typical high school student!
What is your favorite memory from the time you have worked here so far?
I think one of my favorite memories is coaching our varsity basketball team the first time we defeated our rival Christ School. That group of players was so special and a group I had worked with for a number of years so winning that game at the buzzer and watching their unfettered joy is an experience I will always cherish.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
While many people on campus already know, I am not a fan of the outdoors despite living in our beautiful mountain setting. I do not like our large bugs, snakes, and spiders. I would much prefer hotel living to camping, and while I will certainly go on waterfall hikes with my family, they all know I would prefer to drive to Atlanta and attend a sports event!