How a Calling Led Mr. Swanson to 43 Years of Teaching


Fia Cooper

The first thing math teacher Mr. Swanson does every morning is “read my Bible, pray, and drink coffee,” he said.

Isabella Simonutti, Staff Reporter

Mr. Larry Swanson, co-chair of the math department and math teacher at La Salle, says teaching is what he is called to do. When it came time to choose a career path, he felt that when he was 20 that he had “been gifted with the ability to teach and that it would be a mistake and an affront to God to say ‘no, I’m not going to teach,’” he said.  

He recalls knowing he had an affinity for math when he was in third grade and was able to help his 10th-grade sister with her math homework “because it made such sense,” he said. 

Even though he considers his first love to be reading, “I could always do math, math was something that I was good at, and good at explaining,” he said.

Because of his affinity to the subject, he has dedicated the last 43 years of his life to teaching math.

Mr. Swanson is one of La Salle’s most beloved teachers and is known for sharing words of faith and wisdom to students in his complex math classes. 

Mr. Swanson labels himself as a “Jesus follower,” he said. “[Faith] is the biggest impact in my life,” he said. “My faith is the reason I do what I do, the reason I keep doing what I’m doing, and the reason I am consistent in what I do.” 

Growing up “without any faith at all,” and without a role model that “believed what they believed and wouldn’t change,” he said, his wife Tracy is the person who “taught me that there are more important things than just a relationship.” He says that she is a huge reason why he began to consider his faith more seriously. 

Known for his before-class prayers, Mr. Swanson credits the inspiration for them to his consistent praying outside of school. This method of reflection allows him to read something and become inspired to write a prayer about it, which is then read before class. 

Describing his teaching style as “conversational” and “friendly,” his priority when teaching is for kids to know that “even if they struggle in math, they are completely and positively worthy of love and worthy of my love,” he said.  

Mr. Swanson opens his room up as a safe space for his students and knows that if he welcomes everybody into his class, he is doing “what God does for us,” he said.  

When walking down the hallway by Mr. Swanson’s classroom, it is common to see several students getting extra help or taking a break in Mr. Swanson’s classroom. This is the influence that Mr. Swanson has on his students, for La Salle students view his classroom as a place for them to reside after a potentially busy or stressful day. 

His faith is a huge influence on why he opens his classroom in the way that he does. “Since I am a Jesus follower, I want to be Jesus to my students,” he said. 

Mr. Swanson describes himself to be introverted, but he finds “being introverted is a blessing for me,” he said. He believes it aids him in his profession because “I notice things about people,” he said. From his introversion he said he is able to be more self-reflective, thus allowing him to continuously grow as a person.  

Due to his teaching style, Mr. Swanson said he hopes that students will be able to learn and grow not only in their math skills but in real-world problem-solving skills. “I know for a fact that very few people will actually use the math that I teach, but they will always use the abilities to assess and attack a problem,” he said.

Of course, Mr. Swanson finds value in young people learning math, but math is not why he loves to teach. “It’s the kids you know, the math is not that fun,” he said, “but the kids are so fun … every day.” 

Mr. Swanson finds challenges within teaching because “the kids never leave my consciousness,” he said. However, he finds this challenge to be worth it, even saying it is “not a burden. It’s a lovely thing to carry.” 

Inspiring students is the thing that keeps Mr. Swanson coming back year after year. He recently got a call from an old student during which she expressed her gratitude to Mr. Swanson for encouraging her to pursue her dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer. It has been four years since her graduation, and she has just been hired to work at the Kennedy Space Center.

These stories are not uncommon with alumni of a Mr. Swanson math class. “I try to be a genuine lover of people,” he said, and it is that trait that keeps his students engaged, interested, and passionate about math. 

These stories are not uncommon with past students of Mr. Swanson’s math classes. “I try to be a genuine lover of people,” he said, and it is that trait that has encouraged strong connections with his students.