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‘Support and Encouragement’: Mrs. Phillips’ Bicontinental Experiences Shape Teaching Process


“Students need the same thing everywhere they go: support and encouragement”: Wayne Hills English Department’s newest addition, Karli Phillips, employs her diverse teaching background to assert a rudimentary understanding of literature. Concomitantly, she applies aspects of her various experiences to develop confidence in her students. 

Phillips’ fourth-grade yearbook noted: “When I grow up I want to be a teacher.” This core aspiration goal materialized many years later. Initially, she believed that she wanted to teach Elementary school. During college, she worked in the writing center, and the people she tutored would inquire if she had intentions of becoming a High School teacher because she made things sound “interesting and easy.” Her credited work as a tutor would be symptomatic of the effect she would have on students as a teacher, instilling a sense of ease within her students through the ability to break down complex concepts into more manageable pieces. 

Junior Alise Pauksena stated that Phillips’ palpable passion for English is what makes her a great teacher: “Even when I have her class [first period in the morning] she is so animated when teaching.” She also noted that this characteristic helps get the message across. Junior Lexi Bonczek shared a similar opinion: “Mrs. Phillips deeply cares about what she teaching.” 

For undergrad, Phillips attended Bloomsburg University and got her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education English. She regarded her college experience as “nerdy.” Having held a deeply admirational sentiment for the work she was doing and what she was learning she “went to all [her] classes, [and] sat front row.”

After college, in her tenure year at Park Ridge, she decided to decline and pursue a master’s degree in English Education at the University of London. She lived in Teddington, London, and joined one of London’s oldest hockey clubs. Subsequently, one of the players said that there was a “posh private school” looking for an English teacher. From there, Phillips applied and completed a demo lesson.

According to rumor, the Head of English walked into the English office after her demo lesson and proclaimed, “God Bless America.” “Needless to say – I got the job and began teaching at St. George’s College in Weybridge in Addlestone, Surrey.” She taught key stage three (11-13 year olds), GCSE (14-16 year olds), and A-level English (equivalent to AP English, 17-18 year olds.)  

Phillips thoroughly loved the culture in England: “I made most of my adult friends there,” Phillips shared. She went on to say that she loved her job, her colleagues, and her students as well. Phillips said it was the first time she was seen as a novelty. Having been American teaching in an English school—it was a completely different system of education that took some time getting accustomed to. She had to learn to teach exams she was not familiar with. Additionally, teaching at a more prestigious school and to students who were applying to Oxford and Cambridge added even more pressure: “Their parents were spending a lot of money sending them to this posh private school and their teacher is American; the [expectations] are a lot.” She felt accomplished having tackled this particularly difficult challenge. 

In addition to teaching English, Phillips was a form tutor. She was in charge of twenty-four students in their GSCE and A-level years; she watched them grow up and was their “mommy at school.” “I really loved that- it was incredibly rewarding. It also gave me a lot of perspective on the different challenges students might face as they are going through each grade level. And I think that was really good for my perspective in terms of teaching.” 

What differentiates Mrs. Phillips from most is her teaching process—the genesis of which was largely formed through her experience tutoring. She vehemently believes that with support and encouragement, students are far more capable than they think they are. This individualized approach emphasizes that each student requires a specific set of instructions based on their individual needs. 

Having taught in two different countries, Phillips carries the lessons she’s learned from the U.K. and incorporates them into her lessons here at Hills. She described the education system in England as being more centered on literary analysis and taking into consideration the effects of language in close readings of a text. She remarked that the students couldn’t just guess on a multiple choice or rely on external factors such as Google or AI to generate an answer; they had to be able to look at a text and come up with their own interpretations. The prospect of this method, Mrs. Phillips believes, engenders a sense of confidence within students. Through this teaching style, students had to be able to trust themselves: “They had to be confident enough to believe that they had relevant things to say and put it on paper.”

Her personal connection to literature is something that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop delineates in his theory of Windows and Mirrors. The theory stems from the idea that mirror books are books where you see yourself in the characters, and this “creates a feeling of connection, validation, and the idea that you’re not alone.” Then – there are window books,  “that enable you to see into a different life that you never thought you would have been able to experience, that fosters perspective and empathy.” She includes these elements in her teaching as much as possible. 

Phillips hopes to get more involved at Wayne Hills and to leave an enduring impression on her students. The Wayne Hills community welcomes Mrs. Phillips and is looking forward to seeing her make her mark on the school. 

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About the Contributor
Anzor Mustafa, Senior Editor
Anzor is a current senior. He enjoys writing about national news and the politics of the United States. Aside from writing for the Patriot Press, Anzor is an avid reader who enjoys traveling. He is also a part of the Wayne Hills' Leo Club and Model UN.

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