Averett Alumnus Awarded 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year

Posted on October 22nd, 2020 by Matt Bell

Averett University alumnus Anthony Swann ’07 was named the Mary V. Bicouvaris 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year during a virtual recognition ceremony earlier in October.

Swann, a fifth grade teacher at Rocky Mount Elementary and Danville native said that he was still in shock after learning he had won the prestigious award.

“I’m still speechless in a lot of ways,” Swann said. “I told the other nominees I didn’t think I would be chosen being the only male.”

Swann said he has the mentality that as long as he is able to teach children, he is okay.

As a child, Swann said he grew up with an alcoholic mother and not knowing his father.

“At nine years, old I can remember social services coming to pick me up in the middle of the school day. My fourth grade teacher grabbed me and whispered in my ear, ‘Anthony, everything is going to be alright,’” Swann recalled.

Throughout his childhood, Swann said education was an escape from the circumstances that led to being in foster care.

“I gained a love for children, for them to have what I never had. I went in foster care at nine years old, and played school every single day. It was my safe haven,” he said.

Swann began his teaching career in 2007 at Schoolfield Elementary School in Danville. From 2013-2015, he taught at Stoney Creek Elementary in Caswell, N.C. He returned to Virginia in 2015, teaching at Johnson Elementary in Danville for two years before assuming his current position at Rocky Mount Elementary in 2017.

In addition to teaching all subjects, Swann provides mentoring and life-skills coaching for fifth-grade boys through the “Guys with Ties” initiative he developed at his school in 2019. The program includes lessons on the importance of integrity, honesty and respect. The students are required to “dress to impress” twice a month and participate in 45-minute lessons. Swann also schedules guest motivational speakers several times a year.

Swann also helped develop the school’s Cooperative Culture Initiative. The program rewards students for positive behavior and achievement and is credited with improving school culture and reducing disciplinary referrals.

Swann earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Averett University in 2007 and a Master of Education degree in educational leadership from Regent University in 2014.

After being voted teacher of the year by his peers in March, Swann went on to be selected as the district teacher of the year before moving on to the regional awards.

“All of this began two days before the pandemic. That was when I was in shock for the first time,” Swann said.

The teacher of the year award goes to one of eight teachers, representing eight different regions in the Commonwealth.

After an extensive interview process with a committee of people from multiple backgrounds and professions, Swann said anyone could have won the award.

As the 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year, Swann received monetary awards from Dominion Energy Services Inc., Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, and other sponsors. He also received a membership to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, educational opportunities from many public and private colleges and universities, tickets to Kings Dominion, a gift from Virginia State University, an engraved plaque from Bunkie Trinite Trophies Inc. and an engraved crystal apple.

Other sponsors of the Virginia Teacher of the Year Program include the Virginia Lottery, Virginia School Boards Association, Wells Fargo Bank North America, Association of Teacher Educators in Virginia, Moseley Architects, Virginia Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Virginia Education Association, Virginia529, Kroger and Capital Interior Contractors Inc.

Swann said he would encourage any student considering a career in education to pursue it, noting it’s a career that warrants real change.

“My life was changed by my fourth grade teacher’s words,” Swann said. “A leader has that ability with the children in their classroom to change the course of someone’s life just by their words.”

The 2021 National Teacher of the Year will be announced next spring at a White House ceremony. Only three previous Virginia teachers went on to be named National Teacher of the Year.