It’s rare for April Swarey to be speechless. But when it was announced last Tuesday that she was Elkin City School’s teacher of the year, she was stunned.
“I was stunned. I’m amazed by the support I’ve received since I came to Elkin High School. I was so flattered to receive a nomination for Teacher of the Year, let alone win the award,” Swarey said. “I’ve only been here two years. I respect my colleagues; we have a wonderful staff.”
Before becoming a teacher, Swarey worked for the Wake Weekly in Wake Forest from 1996 to 2005. But the demanding hours of a newspaper career became difficult after she had her son, Caleb.
“I love newspapers, but it wasn’t working out with my family life,” she said. “When I started thinking about my favorite parts of the job, it was working with new, young reporters and guiding them. I decided to go into teaching, where I still could work with words along with young people.”
Swarey attended NC State for her teaching degree. Raised outside of Dobson in Surry County since the age of six, Swarey attended Surry Central High School and went to Surry Community College. She met her husband of 18 years, Ken, when she was 17 and they were both in a wedding party. They wrote back and forth for years, but her mother didn’t want her in a serious relationship until she was out of college.
“When I graduated he called me up and said, ‘Can we really go out now that you’ve graduated,” Swarey said. “We dated for a year before we were married. He walked me down the aisle when we were both in the wedding party, and walked me down the aisle again years later when we got married.”
Swarey lived in Wake Forest for 14 years before returning to Surry County began substitute teaching at Elkin High School in 2008 and taught at Surry Early College.
“I wanted to work at Elkin High School since I returned. A lot of people told me if I wanted to work there, I would have to wait until a teacher retired,” she said. “When I position opened I jumped at the chance and was fortunate enough to become one of their teachers.”
Though she grew up in Dobson, an online photo of an old house brought the Swareys to Elkin.
Swarey’s husband, Ken, saw a photo of an old house on West Main Street online and fell in love with it.
“Once he saw that photo, he had to move here. We renovated it for about a year before we moved in. It was a lot of work, but thankfully he is a contractor,” she said. “Our house was built in 1900 and had some light renovations in the 1930s.”
During the renovations, the couple learned the history about their house, which had been owned by the Hendren family. Hendren’s grandson, Garland Talton visited the family one day, telling them that at one time their kitchen was a porch and their bathroom was the kitchen.
At Elkin High School, Swarey teaches freshman, sophomore and senior English classes; incorporating films, current events and life situations with classic literature.
“I teach the classics because there are so many references to them are common in our culture,” she said. “I teach ‘Romeo and Juliet’ because that story is repeated so many times in our culture. We draw parallels to movies like ‘Titanic.’ People didn’t go to see a lot of people drown, they went to see the tragic love story.”
Swarey was also excited when her students drew comparisons to Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” about an aristocrat becoming bored with big game hunting who turns to hunting people, and the popular, contemporary series “The Hunger Games.”
“We looked at the ‘Macbeth’ and compared it to politics and Hitler’s rule,” Swarey said. “We had a class discussion about Macbeth and linked it to the rise and fall of politician John Edwards. Literature isn’t dead or old; it still tells who we are.”
Full name: April Swarey
Employer: Elkin High School English teacher
How many years with the job: two years
Favorite food: My mother’s baked chicken
Favorite pastime: Reading
Family: Husband, Ken; son, Caleb; and mother Lettie Reid
Pets: Corgy mix dog, Miss Molly; two cats, Tiglet and Peepeye
City born in: Winston-Salem
Church: Church of Christ in Dobson
Reach Jessica Pickens at 835-1513 ext. 18 or email@example.com.