Virginia Teacher of Year Anthony Swann continues to inspire students, community through education

Despite so many wins in his professional career, he has faced a host of challenges

ROCKY MOUNT, Va. – Once face-to-face with homelessness and lost in the foster care system, education saved one local teacher’s life.

Every day as a working adult, Anthony Swann has the goal of using his passion to show students how education can change and save their lives, just like it did for him.

The Franklin County teacher works at Rocky Mount Elementary.

In the last year, he has been named district teacher of the year, state teacher of the year and has been appointed to the state board of education.

Despite so many wins, he has faced a host of challenges but remains a champion for kids being in the classroom.

“We have to do more things at their seats. That’s hard because I’m an active teacher,” explained Swann.

The classroom setup is different. The students don’t move as much through the building or really move from their seats, which are now fashioned with partitions – an extra layer of protection.

“They’re glad to be back,” excitingly stated Swann.

2020 introduced a pandemic unlike any other in over a lifetime. It also put a spotlight on race issues in America.

Swann considers his students his children and recognizes his role and representation as a Black man.

“With everything that was taking place, our children were challenged. Especially my Black male children,” said Swann.

In an open letter on his personal Facebook page, Swann shared his story. “Dear Black boys, I am Black history,” it states.

So far that post has been shared more than 1.1K times.

It also inspired a Rocky Mount high schooler to share their story of growing up in the foster care system and losing their father at a young age. Swann relates to this story very well.

“When I was 9 years old I was taken to a foster home,” explained Swann.

Abandoned by his parents, alone and facing homelessness — he almost took his own life.

“My father was never there. As of two weeks ago he called me and told me, ‘I still think you’re not my son.’ It hurt but at the same time I told him thank you and I said, ‘you just gave me more things to add to my story.’”

“I have the potential to reach thousands more students. That makes a difference,” said Swann.

As an educator and member of the state board of education, he’s making sure every student gets a quality education, isn’t subject to unspoken biases or simply has a meal to eat.

He serves on the culturally responsive committee in Franklin County. His term on the state board is four years.

About the Author:

McKinley Strother joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2020. He anchors 10 News at 6 and 11 on Saturdays and Sundays and you'll also catch him reporting during the week.