Shirley McPhillips

A classroom teacher for many years, Shirley McPhillips has also worked as a literacy staff developer, writing consultant, educational writer and poet. For several years she was affiliated with The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Shirley's career as a teacher was initially influenced by her parents' deep respect for learning. "Along the way," she says, "I met exceptional teachers who demonstrated a passion for what they taught and an interest in each student. They nurtured my interest in music and the word. I endeavored to follow their example, hoping to bring along all the enthusiasm and desire for learning that had been my inheritance.”

When asked about the importance of ongoing professional development, Shirley says: "As an adult, to devote oneself to growth and learning is probably as crucial a decision as one can make.” She describes effective staff development as "the way we keep our minds open, our spirits creative. The way we come together with others to forge new paths of thinking."

In 2000, Shirley co-authored, with prize-winning poet and memoirist Nick Flynn, A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching from Poems We Love (Stenhouse Publishers, ME). In this book, the authors use mentor texts as compasses through the waters of craft.

Shirley’s current book, Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers, (Stenhouse Publishers, ME, 2014) helps teachers bring poetry into their lives and the lives of their students through close reading and writing of poetry. The book is divided into three sections: “Coming into a World of Poetry; Reading a Poem: An Immense Intimacy; and Finding Poems, Making Poems.” It introduces readers to professional poets, artists, teachers and students—people of different ages and walks of life—all engaged in reading and making poems.

Currently Poet Laureate for Choice Literacy online, Shirley's poems have also found homes in places such as the Sewanee Review, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Edison Literary Review, Poets Online, and elsewhere.

Shirley is a member of the Writers Council of the National Writing Project (

Her new collection of poems, Acrylic Angel of Fate (Finishing Line Press, KY) will be released end of January, 2016.