Ryne Linsley is one of our Upper School Humanities teachers, our Head Boys Lacrosse Coach, an advisor, and a dorm parent in Bellingrath dorm. Mr. Linsley has worked at Rabun Gap for three years, holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Science Education from Auburn University, and is currently working on getting his Master's Degree from Clemson University. He has been teaching since 2008 and has led multiple lacrosse programs to playoff appearances. Mr. Linsley resides on campus with his wife, Andrea, who is also a Rabun Gap teacher, and their two children, Kate '34 and Tucker '36.
How long have you been working at Rabun Gap?
This is my third year at Rabun Gap.
What made you choose to work at Rabun Gap?
I came to Rabun Gap because I believed in the vision, direction and potential of the school. We have done such a great job to extend opportunities for changed futures to so many young people already and I saw a potential to do even more. My family and I were drawn to the beautiful campus and welcoming people and wanted to be a part of that mission. Lacrosse was coming to Rabun Gap with or without me and I saw a unique and captivating opportunity to start something great, something new and exciting, something that would offer an experience unlike anything in the country; all while continuing the mission of reaching young people around the world in a new way for Rabun Gap.
What did you do before coming to Rabun Gap?
I worked at McCallie School, a boarding and day school in Chattanooga, TN, for eight years as the defensive coordinator for the nationally competitive lacrosse program. I worked in the history department and helped to, in addition to teaching AP world history, redesign a thematic curriculum for US history. I lived and worked in the dorms at McCallie and served as a dorm head in my last year there.
What makes Rabun Gap special to you?
Its history and its global reach make it special. Nowhere else in the country can you find such a diverse group of students and programming that is designed to intentionally reach them. Some places choose to invest in things, Rabun Gap chooses to invest in people! More than that, they choose to invest in the right people - our students!
What is it like working at the same school that your children attend?
Some of my favorite moments on campus are watching my kids play on the Lower School playground while I eat lunch at the Alumni Pavilion. I get to watch them grow, interact, and play every day because they attend school where I work. I love the trust that I have in my fellow faculty members to create an environment that is going to challenge and foster development in my kids. I know parents trust teachers, but working alongside my kids' teachers gives me a deeper respect, admiration, and reassurance in their hearts and care for my littles!
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
This is actually a funny story! I went to college with a plan to major in criminal justice, join the military, become an MP and then try to get into national intelligence. That changed quickly, though as I started working in the summers and some down time with coaches. I knew that my future just wouldn't be fulfilled without the chance to have an impact on the lives of young people. So, the first decision was to become a teacher. this is a distinction I want to make: the choice was to become a teacher first, not a coach. I knew I could coach without teaching, but the best teachers I've had are coaches also and visa versa. I wanted to be both! The second decision was "what to teach." I was not the strongest math student in school and the long term project based learning of science didn't interest me. I didn't like reading as a high school student, so I chose to study history. The joke here is threefold: 1. turns out...there is a lot of reading in history 2. I really enjoy the long collaborative processes of project based and applied learning we use a lot now in my classroom and I see their benefits paying off for our students, and 3. I am now teaching a curriculum that is far more literature than history. At the end of the day, I was inspired by some really impactful teachers and coaches as a student (and even after graduation through our continued relationships) and they showed me the joy and purpose that comes from being an educator. I needed to be a part of that!
What is your favorite aspect of being a dorm parent?
It's a different way to interact with our kids that's not academic or athletic, but is just as much educational. Our kids get to learn how to live independently in the dorm, in preparation for life after high school, but that education has to be guided. That's the job of a dorm parent. We get to teach kids how to clean, cook, study, manage laundry, mitigate peer conflict, care for themselves, seek help when they can't care for themselves, and be an integrated part of a community! What other kind of teacher gets to do that? It's a privilege and an unparalleled perk of the job!
You are the head coach for the boys varsity lacrosse team. Tell us about the program and how you have seen it grow since its inaugural season your first year here.
Our program has grown faster than I think a lot of people would have expected. In our first year, we had two players on our team who had ever picked up a stick and none who had ever played a game. I told the guys on that first team all the time that they were courageous trailblazers for years and years of Rabun Gap lacrosse players who would come after them. Those guys came from all around the world - Denmark, Ghana, Nigeria, Turkey, Germany, the UK, and the US - and found joy in the game. They were an energetic, enthusiastic bunch who contributed to a culture of extra work, honorability, and accountability for our program that will last for a long, long time. I will never forget that group insisting to wait out a two hour thunderstorm so they could play a game three hours from home, only to win it in double overtime - Bryce Phillips assisted Emil Bennich on a 300 mirror look for the game winner in Knoxville after we had to score three goals in the last four minutes just to tie it! That group also beat a big metro Atlanta high school on the road after a two-week COVID shutdown at school and no practices before the game. Actually, since we weren't allowed to practice as an organized team, the guys took it upon themselves to organize practices leading up to the game!
This year, going into our third season, our talent and experience is a far cry from that first group, but their enthusiasm, dedication to extra work and values of community and accountability still bleed into our program. This year, year three of the program, we will field collegiate caliber lacrosse players who have received interests from Division I, II, and III schools. We have extended our reach as a program and have players on the roster from Tennessee, New York, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Canada. This will also be the first year we will see the development of our middle school program really have a massive impact on our high school program. We had three starters on the team last year as freshmen who came from our middle school, but this year we may have even more ninth graders contribute, at least by mid season. I am excited for what the 2023 season brings!
How do you balance the classic boarding school "triple threat" model of being a teacher, coach, and dorm parent?
A friend of mine once told me that there is no such thing as balance. Instead, we should focus on being 100% of the thing we are supposed to be in that moment. He said it's not about balance, but rhythms - we need to flow in rhythm with our responsibilities. Rather than try to balance everything, I try to take his advice. When I'm in the classroom, I try to be 100% the best teacher I can be. The same goes for coaching and in the dorm. The hardest part is turning off the other parts because it's easy to let the mind wander from place to place because we are all so invested in all those avenues of our responsibilities to the school.
What do you like most about working with our students?
I like their courage and comfort with being themselves. Our students, by the time they are acclimated to life here, understand that they can be themselves and they are each individually valued for who they are and what they bring to the table. When they feel that they can be themselves, our community is stronger, our classroom discussions are richer, our athletic success is greater, our dorms are more congenial. New students are welcomed easily and find themselves quickly in the fold, being themselves, making us better!
What is your favorite memory from the time you have worked here so far?
We experience memorable moments all the time here: light bulb moments in the classroom, candid laughter cooking at the grill at the dorm, big victories on the field or court. Last year, Mr. Miles gave us a head of school holiday on a Wednesday and I was on duty in the dorm that Tuesday night. We had an impromptu bonfire with s'mores and music and fellowship that included day students, boarding students, domestic students, international students, athletes, theatre performers, and all kinds of students from different walks of life. It lasted for hours. No one wanted to leave. They just wanted to keep singing and to keep the fire going. Moments like those make this place special!
THE memory though, was last year's graduation. It was such a rewarding day and a reminder of why we do what we do. It was a moment that I got to share both with our graduating students and with my family. There were so many hugs and see-you-laters (NOT goodbyes). My family got to spend two years getting to know that group. My kids had their favorites and the moments they shared with some of our students like Victory and William and Anna were priceless. It was an emotional event and one that I will treasure.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume alone?
I consider myself to be an "introverted extrovert." I'm not a professional psychologist and nor is that "diagnosis" a professional one, but I really get energized being around other people AND absolutely need to recharge almost immediately afterward. I think most people who meet me or read my resume think I'm a typical extroverted teacher, but at the end of the day, all I really want to do is fire up my grill and sit on my patio listening to music in peace. Most of the time when I try to explain to people my introversion and avoidance of crowds, they look at me like I'm nuts! I don't think that comes through in my day to day.