As Educator of the Year, Mr. Larry Swanson Leaves a Lasting Impact, While Loving What He Does

Dakota Canzano, Editor

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  • Mr. Swanson, the co-department chair of the math department, was awarded Lasallian Educator of the Year.

  • Mr. Swanson has taught 34 years in public school in addition to six years at La Salle.

  • Mr. Swanson helps senior Luke Wild with AP Calculus II (BC).

  • Mr. Swanson smiles alongside senior Isabel Van Vleet.

  • Mr. Swanson not only teaches his students about numbers and equations but also is a support system for their life outside of school.

  • Mr. Swanson works with juniors Mandy Sisul and Isa Sale.

  • Mr. Swanson works diligently with his students.

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When Mr. Larry Swanson was 20 and finishing his sophomore year in college, he decided engineering wasn’t for him. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his vocational life, so he turned to his pastor.

“You know you’re a teacher,” the pastor said. 

Mr. Swanson listened.

“I had never thought about it,” Mr. Swanson said. “Then, I started thinking, my whole life I’ve been a teacher and I just didn’t know it.”

In September, Mr. Swanson was voted Lasallian Educator of the Year. As part of that honor, Mr. Swanson will be delivering the speech for the Heroic Vow assembly tomorrow, on Wednesday, Nov. 13. He’s been a math teacher at La Salle for the last six years of his 40-year career in public and private schools.

“It’s just kind of what I’m built to do,” Mr. Swanson said. 

He’s always been good with numbers and teaching others. 

“I’ve always taught math,” he said. “My first memory of teaching was sitting on my sister’s bed. She was in high school and I was in third grade and she was struggling with algebra. And I was helping her with algebra because the numbers just made sense to me.”

Mr. Swanson was initially interested in being a civil engineer. That pastor turned him towards education. He attended Umpqua Community College, graduated from Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho, and then the University of Oregon for his masters degree. 

Mr. Swanson said that his faith in God is the most important part of his life. Christ compels him to do his job and gives him the ability to connect with his students. 

“I can’t think about doing anything else because I’d be betraying the gifts he’s given me,” he said. “So I feel like I have a mission and a purpose.” 

Before teaching at La Salle, Mr. Swanson taught in Hillsboro, Tigard, Corbett, and a little town in Eastern Oregon called Halfway.

“My first experience in the classroom, was in a kindergarten classroom of all things and there was a guy teacher,” he said. “He was about 6-foot-6, his name was Paul Herman. “He was tall and skinny, and he was just having so much fun with his kindergarteners.”

It gave Mr. Swanson an idea. 

“Just seeing him having so much fun I thought, ‘Wow. Maybe I could do that,’” he said.

During his six years at La Salle, Mr. Swanson has taken the time to develop strong connections with students as well as helping to guide them through life.

“He’ll do little lessons like life lessons about his life and what he’s learned, like Bible verses and stuff,” junior Cami Gallawa said. “It’s a nice way to start the class.”

Senior Spencer Schuh has AP Calculus with Mr. Swanson and enjoys having him as a teacher.

“He’s very wise,” Schuh said. “He has obviously lived through many experiences and he can give his personal life lessons and opinions on stuff. He’s also very funny. He loves to crack jokes and laugh with other people, and make other people feel joy during the day.”

Mr. Swanson’s favorite part of his teaching career is working with students. 

“They’re just fun,” he said. “Kids are interesting [and] they’re kind to me. I like them, they like me back. They’re just funny [and] a lot of fun to be around.”

Mr. Swanson has taught Geometry, Honors Geometry, Algebra 2, Honors Algebra 2, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC. He looks forward every day to coming to school and has a fun way of approaching his day.

“I don’t say ‘I’m going to work,’ I say ‘I am going to school,’” he said. 

Mr. Swanson has cherished his time teaching over the years.

“It’s a great career,” he said. “You’re never going to be rich but the money is not the determining factor for enjoyment. If you’re supposed to teach, you better teach, or you are never going to be happy doing anything else.”

Not only is Mr. Swanson a part of the math program, but he has become heavily invested in the retreat and immersion trips that are offered at La Salle, such as the Journey retreat and the Montana Blackfeet Immersion.

“I feel like it’s kind of the heart and soul of the school, where kids really get a chance to get away and have time to consider themselves and consider their place in their world,” he said. “I really like that.”

The Lasallian Educator of the Year Award is voted on by the La Salle staff annually. It exemplifies the ideals of St. John Baptist de La Salle. 

Mr. Swanson appreciated that the math and science department was represented and felt like the award was a shared honor by the department.

“It’s such an honor,” Mr. Swanson said. “There are 12 or 13 of us, we’re such a fun unit… it’s so easy to think about everybody else in this group; everybody brings such great skills.”

Mr. Swanson believes that the entire staff at La Salle has developed a common purpose and a common mission. 

“We’re all different levels of ability, but [the staff’s] purpose is to work with the kids and help them be better [as well as] helping them to be their best selves,” Mr. Swanson said. 

Mr. Swanson has a ritual in which he dedicates at least five minutes at the beginning of his class for prayer, sharing a Bible verse and a story.

“My favorite Bible verse is ‘put on love’ because it holds all of the characteristics together in unity,” he said. “And I think that if you approach people in love, you really find that everyone responds well to that and you end up being positive. Leading people your way with the people you’re with, you end up making everywhere you are better.”