OTTUMWA—Fifth grade teacher, Kari Swartz, is doing what she loves.
A teacher in the Ottumwa district for 23 years, she is not looking forward to the last day of school. “I know it will be my last time with them,” she said referring to her current class of students. And she knows she will cry on that day. “They are my class, my students.”
There are times each day when she feels appreciated, not only during Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8-12). “Kids love their teachers for the most part,” she said. “You feel that every day, even on your worst days. You have to be willing to let them get to know you.”
Her passion is working with this age of student. “I love this age group,” she said. “They still love their teacher but still have the desire to learn. You can have conversations with them and get to know and understand them.”
Her biggest challenge is working with students who don’t believe in themselves. “I preach-everyone is good at something. No one is good at everything.”
Over the years, several students have stayed in touch. This year’s graduates who attended the former Wildwood Elementary School were a tight class. “I’ve received seven or eight graduation invitations,” Swartz said. Several former students have also followed Swartz into the teaching profession. “They say it’s because of me and there is nothing better than that!” One former student now teaches kindergarten in Ankeny. She sends pictures and shares teaching stories. “These things make it easy to do the job.”
With no plans to retire anytime soon, she is still learning and improving her instructional practices. This year she incorporated blended learning strategies into her classroom. Students take more responsibility for their learning. “I don’t do anything the same” from year to year. “I have to do it the way kids need it done. No two classes are the same.”