Anthony Swann, a Danville native, Averett University alumnus and fifth-grade teacher at Rocky Mount Elementary, was named 2021 Virginia Teacher of the Year on Friday evening during a virtual recognition ceremony live-streamed on social media.
Swann was selected from the eight regional winners announced last month and is now the Commonwealth’s nominee for 2021 National Teacher of the Year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane made the announcement at the conclusion of the ceremony, which included remarks from Gov. Ralph Northam, first lady Pamela Northam, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and state Board of Education President Daniel Gecker.
“First of all, I’d like to thank God for the opportunity to serve his children," Swann said. "It’s been a dream of mine ever since I was 11 years old. Words cannot express how humbled and grateful I am to have this honor. I plan to utilize this opportunity to give hope to those students who feel that their current trauma or economic hardship is the end of their world. Teachers, together we have the ability to change one life at a time through our influence. Let’s continue to change the world, one child at a time.”
Swann, the Region 6 Teacher of the Year, was named Virginia’s top teacher after being interviewed last week by a committee that included representatives of professional and educational associations and the business community.
“While tonight’s Virginia Teacher of the Year ceremony was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony Swann is the real deal,” Lane said. “He represents the thousands of Virginia teachers who dedicate every day, whether teaching remotely or in person, to the academic success of their students and their social and emotional well-being. Anthony overcame many challenges to get where he is today, and he shares those life lessons with his students as he prepares them for success in the classroom and beyond.”
Swann began his teaching career in 2007 at Schoolfield Elementary in Danville. From 2013-2015, he taught at Stoney Creek Elementary in Caswell, North Carolina. Swann returned to Virginia in 2015, teaching at Johnson Elementary in Danville for two years before assuming his current position at Rock Mount Elementary in 2017.
“As a former classroom teacher, I know the commitment it takes to create compassionate classrooms and teach in a way that incites curiosity and inspires students to become lifelong learners,” Qarni said. “Anthony's commitment to inspiring students is clear in the way he goes above and beyond to mentor students both inside and outside the classroom, and I am proud to celebrate Anthony as Virginia’s Teacher of the Year.”
In addition to teaching all subjects, Swann provides mentoring and life-skills coaching for fifth-grade boys through the Guys with Ties program he started at Rocky Mount Elementary in 2019. The program included 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 Rocky Mount Elementary’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 in 2007 and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Regent University in 2014. Swann has taught elementary school for 13 years.
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.
A video of Friday’s Virginia Teacher of the Year ceremony is also available on the VDOE YouTube channel.
The 2021 National Teacher of the Year will be announced next spring at a White House ceremony. Three previous Virginia teachers, Mary V. Bicouvaris, the 1989 Virginia Teacher of the Year, B. Philip Bigler, the 1998 Virginia Teacher of the Year and Rodney A. Robinson, the 2019 Virginia Teacher of the Year went on to be named National Teachers of the Year.