DODDS-Europe teacher receives national award for excellence
November 24, 2004
BAMBERG, Germany — Because he had students dancing in the aisles and spending their lunch time studying Shakespeare, a former Hanau Middle School teacher was recently selected as a 2004 recipient of the I CAN Learn-NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence.
Christopher Swanson, now a Vilseck Middle/High School English teacher, was nominated for the National Education Association award while teaching English and drama at Hanau Middle School last school year.
Swanson had to be nominated by his peers, students and parents to be eligible for the award.
During his eight years at Hanau Middle School, Swanson strived to keep his lessons interesting. He used tools such as competitions and singing to get the children interested in learning.
“One particular day, we were working on grammar,” he said. “Grammar is a very dry subject, and there are so many rules to learn. I had one of the students rapping out the rules of grammar, and everybody was out of their chairs dancing around.”
He gave up his lunch hours for what started out as special tutoring for students having trouble with the Shakespeare play they were reading in class.
So many students began coming to the lunch-hour sessions that it developed into the Hanau Shakespearean Actors Group. The group put on one to two Shakespeare plays each school year and used funds raised to take a trip to London for workshops at the Globe Theatre, Swanson said.
Through the I CAN Learn program, 34 teachers throughout the United States are recognized for outstanding instructional expertise, creativity, innovation and attention to diversity and individual students’ needs, among other areas.
Five finalists are selected from the 34 teachers for the Horace Mann-NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. One top winner is then selected from among the five.
Although Swanson was not one of the five finalists, he said he was honored to be included among the handful of educators receiving the I CAN Learn award.
“It is a humbling experience, to be adjudged to be at the top of my field,” Swanson said. “It gives cause for reflection, and it motivates me to continue to work at being a better teacher and to meet the needs of my students.”
Kim Coard, a home economics teacher at Hanau Middle School who helped make the costumes for the plays, was one of the teachers who nominated Swanson for the award.
“I saw a lot of one-on-one between him and the students,” said Coard, now a reading, health, and family and consumer science teacher at Ramstein Middle School. “He got students who seemed hopeless genuinely motivated to learn and doing things they would not do for any other teacher. He always planned activities for the students and he built their esteem. Nobody is more deserving of this award.”
Swanson said that, while the award is an honor, he was moved more by the fact that his peers and students wanted to nominate him.
“The best part of getting this award is knowing that there are people you have made a big enough impact on that they would want to nominate you for something like this,” Swanson said.
Swanson will attend the NEA Foundation Award ceremony in Washington, D.C., in December.