Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday appointed Virginia 2021 Teacher of the Year Anthony Swann to the state Board of Education. Swann is a fifth grade teacher at Franklin County’s Rocky Mount Elementary School.
“It feels like I’ve won Teacher of the Year all over again,” Swann said in an interview.
“I’ve always longed to be a teacher to serve children at the classroom level, but now I get to serve children across the entire state,” he said, in addition to serving as the state’s top educator.
The nine-member board, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly, is charged with shaping education policies and practices across the state. The board is tasked with setting curriculum standards and establishing testing and assessment programs, among other duties. Board members include a principal and superintendent, but Swann will be the only current classroom teacher.
“The governor actually wanted a current teacher, and he thought about little old me,” Swann said, adding that “it feels great to know that they’re willing to listen to a current educator.”
Swann, who will fill one of two vacancies, said he plans to provide a teacher’s perspective and advocate for all students. The other appointment announced Friday went to Stewart Roberson of Richmond, a former superintendent of schools in Hanover County and Falls Church.
Northam praised Swann as a “fantastic teacher and a tremendous mentor for his students.”
Swann spent the majority of his childhood in foster care and credits his fourth grade teacher for changing his life. Swann builds trust with his students — whom he calls “my children” — by sharing his life experiences and showing them that they, too, can grow up to achieve their dreams. He is known for his popular Guys with Ties program, in which he provides mentoring and life-coaching to fifth grade boys.
Northam announced the appointment at a news conference during which he told school districts to offer in-person instruction by March 15. Swann subsequently spoke about the importance of classroom instruction, relaying his students’ excitement about Franklin County’s recent return to the classroom four days per week instead of two.
“Our students need some form of in-person instruction,” he said. “As a current classroom teacher, I am on the front lines of education all while serving children during the pandemic. I know the importance of safety. But I also know the importance of our students’ education. ... Not only will in-person instruction help them academically, but it will also help our students with their social and emotional needs,” he said.