Name: David L. Swaney
Department: Social Studies
Came to Blair in: 1998
Classes Taught: AP NSL Government, NSL Government, World History, AP Comparative Government, International Affairs, Spanish, German
Education: B.A. in Economics and German from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, M.A. in International Affairs from George Washington University, M.Ed. in Secondary Education from George Washington University
Previous Jobs: Taught at Surrattsville High School in PG County, worked for the Associate Dean of the Elliott School at George Washington University, for the Pan American Development Foundation (part of the Organization for American States), as a Peace Corps volunteer, for Daimler-Benz in West Berlin, as a Bank Teller, as a Life Guard
Hobbies: swim and dive, playing the violin, tennis, languages (Spanish and German)
The lights are dimmed as social studies teacher David Swaney sits among teenage students, below a stage decked with flashy costumes and dramatic actors. He sits as those around him do: with their violins propped steadily on their shoulders and their right arms flying wildly to create an energetic stream of music, as background for the torrent of song coming from the stage. Swaney plays with his fellow pit members, delighted to be engaging in one of his favorite pastimes while supporting his students' extracurricular interests.
Participating in the orchestra for the Blair Spring Musical is just one of the many activities that keep Swaney busy outside the classroom. Many of these hobbies are not new, as his numerous pastimes began at a young age. He first pursued his swimming passion as a child, when the vigor of competitive swimming enticed him. "I was young," Swaney remembers, "and I was on a hard-core competitive team." But the plethora of activities truly commenced during his high school years, when Swaney's competitive swimming was complemented by coaching other swim teams and playing tennis games. His summer swim coaching continued into his college years, throughout which his range of academic interests began to emerge.
With a fascination for economics and German, Swaney pursued a Master's Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University, identifying the subject as his favorite. "I prefer government; it's my area of interest," he indicates. Despite this zeal, Swaney abandoned his academic life after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1987 to participate in the Peace Corps for two years.
This rewarding experience was personally gratifying and set the stage for his future career, Swaney reflects. "The real reason I went into education was because of the Peace Corps," he says. "I saw the problems with a lack of education, and I believe that is the root of all problems."
In order to help rectify this issue, Swaney began his teaching career at Surrattsville High School in Prince George's County, a school consisting chiefly of middle- to lower-class African American students. "It was a very troubled school and very homogeneous," Swaney says solemnly. So after three years of teaching Spanish and German, Swaney transitioned to Blair in 1998. He preferred the diverse environment, and continued to teach language for a while. At Blair, he converted back to his subjects of interest, instructing classes such as National, State and Local Government, Comparative Government, World History and International Affairs.
Swaney has also engaged in other school-sponsored activities such as coaching the Blair Swim and Dive team, coaching the group "It's Academic," and playing the violin in the pit orchestra for the Spring Musicals. "I am always overextended," Swaney admits of his many engagements. He also swims recreationally and plays classical music in a performing quartet.
Despite the overload, Swaney enjoys every minute of his involvement, especially for his time-intensive Swim and Dive team. "I enjoy coaching for the same reason I like teaching- because it's fun," he says, a good-natured grin spreading across his face. "I like working with kids and seeing their progress, seeing kids form social ties, seeing kids in a positive social, healthy and athletic experience."
Swaney's primary goal for his students is to prepare them for the "real thing," or life beyond high school. "Ultimately, I want to prepare students to be good citizens of the United States and good citizens of the world," he asserts.
Swaney's most rewarding professional experience is hearing from students who have already graduated, becoming successful "citizens of the world." "That's about as good as it gets," Swaney says with a smile. "However, when students are teaching government because they were so influenced by my class, that is the ultimate reward."
Simply educating his students is enough to keep his day-to-day experiences rewarding. Swaney has encountered numerous memorable moments with his students, many of which are humorous. "There are lots of funny ones," Swaney laughs. In fact, he keeps a record of these comical instances, and confesses that most are slightly "risqué." "One time, in explaining the Iowa caucus, I mentioned that Bob Dole was happy to have won the caucus. And a student asked, 'Why would he be happy if he's winning a dead body?' " Swaney chuckles, a gleam in his eye as he recalls the amusing moment.
These unforgettable moments are part of what has made Swaney's decade at Blair fly by. "I can't believe it's been ten years!" he admits. "I hope I have the energy for ten more!" Despite the fact that Swaney's diverse interests and talents could land him a job in many other fields, he insists that his current occupation of engaging and preparing young minds for their future lives brings him the most happiness and satisfaction. "I have options," Swaney admits. "Still," he says with a serious nod, "there's nothing I'd rather be doing."
Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »