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Faculty Profile: MC Phillips, Librarian

MC Phillips is the Librarian for all three divisions. She has worked at Rabun Gap for 12 years and holds a  a Bachelor of Arts in English from Montreat College, a Master of Arts in Educational Studies from Piedmont College, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies from Syracuse University. Before coming to Rabun Gap, she worked for a sea kayaking tour company, taught at The Learning Community in Black Mountain, and taught fifth grade at The Little School. Rabun Gap is not only a special place for Ms. Phillips, but for her family as well. Her husband, Brian Phillips is an alum and a teacher here and their two children Harper ‘28 and Sam ‘30 attend school here. In her downtime, Ms. Phillips enjoys cooking, reading, and dancing.

How long have you been working at Rabun Gap?

I began teaching 8th grade English here in 2006- it was my first full-time teaching job. In 2010 I chose to take some years at home with my children and to work on a master's degree in Early Childhood Education, returning to RGNS in 2016 to teach 5th grade, and have worked here ever since, which makes it 12 years I've had a full-time role here and 17 years that I've lived on campus!

What made you choose to work at Rabun Gap?
Interestingly, I found out about Rabun Gap when I was in 8th grade and my dad had a job interview in the area. I dreamed of getting to move to Rabun Gap to attend the school, but he didn't get the job. Fast forward to college, where I met Brian Phillips, who introduced where he was from by mentioning the school on the hill where he had attended middle and high school. It was my admiration of this place that fueled our very first conversation. We got married in the school chapel, but never suspected we would come back to work here and raise our family on this campus, until the opportunity to move back from Washington state came about in 2006.
What did you do before coming to Rabun Gap?
Just before moving to Rabun Gap, I worked for a sea kayaking tour company in the San Juan islands in the Puget sound off the coast of Washington state. We led multiple-day, whale-watching paddling adventures, and when not working a kayaking trip, we lived in a Volkswagen camper van. 
What makes Rabun Gap special to you?
The story about how my husband and I first connected over Rabun Gap is just the beginning. Even moving here to teach, years later, I didn't quite realize just what a special place this was. Now, after seventeen years being a part of it, I know it is the unique community of people that makes it most special. I try not to brag to other educators about how inspiring, kind, authentic, and dedicated Rabun Gap students are, but it really is true. The faculty I work with have such a heart for what they do, and are "all-in" with love; and when students inspire teachers and teachers inspire students, it builds into something very special.

Why did you decide to become a teacher?
When I graduated with a degree in English, I was leaning towards journalism or another writing career plan. I guess I thought of it as some sort of rebellion choice, since my mom, both grandmothers, aunts, and numerous other family members had spent careers in education. Looking for some income, I took a substitute teacher training course soon after college, and it was the course itself that led me to change my mind and pursue a career in education. I tried out the classroom as an assistant teacher at a small independent school in Black Mountain, NC, and found I really enjoyed spending time with kids at school, so I followed that spark.

What is your favorite part of being the librarian and what was the transition like from being a teacher?
The best part is the chance to get to know every single student in the school in some way. I absolutely love that I can read and sing songs with four-year-olds, deliver the next book in a thrilling series to a middle school student, and share some research skills with high schoolers all in one day at my job.

As a school librarian, I strive to foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals at a broader level than in the classroom, and through a lens where I get to inspire curiosity and support a love of storytelling and information literacy. My years in the classroom were so crucial in helping me know how to develop and lead meaningful experiences in library learning. Knowing what the classroom is like for our students and teachers helps to guide my ability to support both students and teachers with resources and instruction.

Tell us about the role the library plays in all three divisions.
The role of the library has had to expand as the school has grown into three divisions. For our youngest learners, the library is a place where they can follow curiosities and gain a sense of how books can be windows connecting us to the world and imagination, as well as mirrors showing stories like our own. For our middle and upper school divisions, I strive to convey that access to information is not something confined within the walls of our library space, but that our services include helping them develop the skills to find and synthesize information, no matter where they are in the world. I also feel that character education thrives as a role of our library in each division, in a variety of ways.

What is it like working at the same school that your children attend?
I am so lucky to have the whole family in one place. Once we had invested years at Rabun Gap and developed as educators here, it made the most sense to see our children all the way through this remarkable school.  I was never in favor of being the self-contained classroom teacher of either of my own children, for the challenges that would place on both of us. In fact, when I was growing up and reached the same grade my mom taught, she sent me to a different school- ha! But being able to see my own kids, from time to time as their librarian, is a wonderful privilege and a gift for which I'm grateful.

What do you like most about working with our students?  
My favorite thing about working with our students is being witness to a love of learning something new. I'm always learning from them and with them- whether it is first graders making a connection from what I'm teaching to something they learned earlier with their classroom teacher that they enthusiastically share; or my upper school library assistants charging forward with new ideas to make a program or project successful in the library. When they propel themselves forward and enjoy learning something new to all of us, it's the best thing.

What is your favorite memory from the time you have worked here so far?
Pinpointing one is SO hard! For years, I went backpacking on the Junior Mountaintop Experience, and I will never forget when the class of 2008 went (as sophomores), it was in March! We hiked up the first mountain during an ice storm. Our group hung our food way up high in a tree to keep it safe, and in the morning when we untied the rope to let the food back down, the rope was frozen to the branch! Everything was wet and we couldn't get a fire started. One member of our group had brought a battery operated fan to provide noise when it was time to sleep, which we had laughed about together, considering you should only want to bring what you absolutely need when backpacking. When we couldn't get the fire started, that student pulled out that little fan and blew it towards the fire we were working on, and...WOOSH! We had fire! Everyone laughed so hard because we had given that kid a hard time about bringing it, and it ended up saving us! Those little funny memories from such challenging experiences end up being favorites you remember. 
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your resume?
If I had not become a teacher and librarian, I definitely would have opened up a bakery, and I would be someone who goes in and bakes artisan bread at 4am each day and knits there in the afternoons.
Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School is a private, coeducational day and boarding school for grades Pre-K through 12. Centrally located between Atlanta, GA, Greenville, SC, and Asheville, NC, we prepare young people for college, career, and a lifetime of leadership and service.