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When a group first-grade students at W.D. Williams Elementary School returned to school after the holiday break, someone was missing. Their teacher, Rachel McMahan, had retired after 31 years in the classroom.

McMahan, a Black Mountain native, spent her entire teaching career in all three of the Owen School District’s elementary schools. She taught all levels, from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Because of McMahan’s deep compassion and empathy, many special needs students were placed in her class for the regular education part of their day.

McMahan comes from a family filled with educators. Four of the family’s six siblings had connections to the classroom. All four also married educators.

McMahan’s husband is Jack McMahan, a longtime Owen District middle school teacher who retired then returned to the classroom at Valley Springs Middle School. The McMahans’ son Bradley also teaches at Valley Springs. Bradley’s wife, Hannah, teaches the intensive intervention class at Black Mountain Primary School.

The McMahans’ daughter, Emma Buchanan, teaches first grade at Fairview Elementary. The only non-educator in the McMahan family is son-in-law Ray Buchanan, who serves as a Buncombe County fireman at the Swannanoa and Black Mountain fire stations.

Rachel McMahan earned her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and sociology at UNC Asheville. Her master’s degree from Western Carolina University is in curriculum and instruction. She also has earned national board certification in the area of early childhood generalist education.

With retirement she plans to spend more time on the tennis court and, most importantly, providing child care for her new granddaughter, Ellie McMahan. She also will continue to be involved in the music program at her church, Christ Community (EPC)-Montreat. McMahan is also a part-time employee of the Biltmore Estate.

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