If you happen to take a trip to the principal’s office at Mountain Brook High School, you’ll find signed photos of astronauts and space shuttle models alongside a 1989 yearbook and sports memorabilia from the school in the ‘80s—all telling the story of its new resident. Before taking on administrative roles, Philip Holley spent 19 years “passing along my passion for the natural world around us” to students in biology classrooms, and even took home the President’s Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the nation’s highest honor for teachers of those subjects. Here’s what he had to say about his new role and some of what you’ll find in his office.

What made you want to transition from teaching to administration?

A principal at the junior high called me into his office and said, “You need to go get your administration degree.” And I said, “No, no, I am not going to do that. I love teaching too much.” Two or three years after that, it clicked. I had gotten an email from a former student that said, “I just want you to know what an impact you made on me, and I am now going to go into a science field because I enjoyed biology so much.” I realized if I can have that big of an impact on 120 kids in my class every year, being an administrator I can have an impact on so many more students. I thought it was time to look into administration, and I haven’t looked back.

What stands out from your memories as a MBHS student?

I remember taking astronomy and geology with Bubba Daves. He had such a passion for it, and it came through every day when he taught. I remember going into that class thinking, “I don’t think I am interested in this,” and by the time I left at the end of the year, I loved it. Ever since then, astronomy is interesting to me, and it’s because of his class.

What role does social media play in a school in 2018?

Social media has changed everything. A lot of teachers use (the app) Remind to keep in contact with their students, and students use GroupMe to share information and work on projects. Whenever I am in any event, whether it’s a choir show or football or baseball or softball, I think it’s important to tweet out what’s going on at Mountain Brook High School from my personal account and from school accounts. I want everyone to know the great things that are happening here.

What is something people might not know about you?

I applied to be an astronaut in the early 2000s when NASA brought back the educator astronaut program. I made it into the final 100 but didn’t get selected. I am still interested in it but that’s not the path I am meant to be on.

What do you do when you are not working?

I like to read and spend time with my family. I love being outside in nature. We love to go to the beach and hike at Red Mountain Park. I love to read biographies of historical leaders to learn things to help me in this role. I love to learn.