BATAVIA – After a distinguished career in the Batavia School District, Nan Phillips retired in 2011. Except she didn’t actually retire.
Instead, Phillips channeled her energy and work ethic into a new career as a Batavia volunteer, using the experience and understanding she gained from her work in the schools to tackle new challenges.
Notably, Phillips was instrumental in the creation of the Hall of Honor at Batavia High School and the formation of the CHIP IN Batavia program designed to help students in need of temporary housing and other assistance.
Friends, professional colleagues and fellow volunteers describe Phillips as a tireless worker who has made Batavia a better place to live.
“Nan is a one-of-a-kind woman with unending energy and kindness that she continues to use to help Batavia,” said Joanne Spitz, who has worked with Phillips on volunteer boards.
“She has impacted and improved the lives of hundreds of our children and continues to change lives on a daily basis,” Spitz said of Phillips.
When the Batavia Chamber of Commerce makes the selection for its annual Citizen of the Year Award, the business group shines a light not only on a dedicated volunteer, but by extension on worthy community service organizations.
With Phillips, who will be honored Jan. 23 as the 2019 Citizen of the Year at the Chamber’s annual Inspire awards banquet, those community service organizations would include the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence (BFEE) and the Batavia Woman’s Club.
When Phillips was serving as the learning resources director at Louise White School and later at Hoover-Wood School, she understood the value that BFEE was providing for her students.
Phillips sought and received grants from the foundation to fund the purchase of additional materials and create special programs, giving students a better learning experience.
“Those grants meant a lot to me when I was working in the trenches,” Phillips said. “I could develop an idea and write a grant request for it.”
One of the best known was her “Boys, Books and Bologna” lunchtime reading program and another was called SOAR for Sharing Our Appreciation of Reading and Writing.
So as soon as Phillips retired from the school faculty, she joined BFEE and not only helped teachers with their grant applications but organized fundraisers to help generate money for the grant awards.
BFEE chairwoman Catherine Fitch said Phillips was a prime player in bringing the Hall of Honor to BHS.
“She knew that we needed to recognize and acknowledge people who were either graduates or members of our community who have made an impact,” Fitch said.
“The key to the Hall of Honor is the focus on where people have gone and what they have done,” Phillips said. “We’re celebrating their successes.”
Through her volunteer work with the Batavia Woman’s Club, Phillips also helped found the CHIP IN program.
Once again, Phillips already was aware of the need because of her experience working with children in Batavia schools.
“I knew there were kids like that,” Phillips said. “I’m still blown away by the generosity of Batavians who want to help.”
Batavia United Way Executive Director Melinda Kintz said Phillips has been the lead CHIP IN liaison for Rotolo Middle School.
“Nan is on call daily for any emergency or other needs of the low-income children at this school,” Kintz said.
“One phone call will have Nan delivering new shoes for a child in need, sketch books for art kids who cannot afford the supplies or dropping everything to bring kids who are walking home in the cold a pair of mittens,” Kintz said.
“Nan is the quiet, humble, unflappable, tenacious, organized woman behind many great things that happen in Batavia to benefit Batavians,” Kintz said.
With the Batavia Woman’s Club, Phillips also has taken the lead to provide Christmas stockings in the annual Holiday Adopt-A-Family project.
Phillips has a simple explanation for her school career and volunteer efforts.
“When I take something on, I tend to be a workaholic,” Phillips said.
Phillips said she was first shocked and then humbled when she received the telephone call from Mayor Jeff Schielke with the news that she had been selected for the community’s top honor.
Phillips believes Batavia is a special place.
“Batavia is still such a small town at heart, and I don’t think Batavians want to lose that,” Phillips said.
Phillips was born in Aurora and raised in Oswego, Huntley and Harvard. She studied at Aurora College and completed her student teaching at Louise White before taking a fifth-grade teaching job at a school in Aurora.
In 1987, Phillips began teaching fifth grade at Louise White before being named learning resources director there in 1989. When Hoover-Wood School opened in 1991, Phillips created the learning resources center from the ground up.
At both schools, Phillips championed not only traditional language arts but also technology innovations as part of her programming.
Her husband, Ray, also is an educator. He retired from teaching at Western Avenue School in Geneva. Two of their three children are teachers. Jill teaches in Geneva, Todd is an electrical engineer in Glen Ellyn, and Lisa teaches and coaches sports at East Aurora High School.