For some, it’s not easy to leave a career they love, and that’s the case with former Region 7 Superintendent Dr. Rodney Swanson. Last January, he officially retired from the DeKalb County School District (DCSD); however, he did not leave the district entirely.
“My last day in the district was Jan. 3, but I intend to continue working as the district administrative back-up to support in any way I can,” Swanson said. “So hopefully I never have a last day in the district.”
Swanson began his teaching career at DCSD in 1992 after working in corporate America for three years. While working in his business, he tutored students from a local church. This experience inspired him to make the transition to teaching.
“I really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and seeing the students understand what I was teaching them. I felt teaching was my calling and I would teach for free if I had the chance,” Swanson said. “I was also inspired by my parents and extended family, who were also educators, and I thrive in a structured environment.”
Swanson said he decided to work for DCSD after hearing so many good things about the school district. His wife is also a graduate of Lakeside High School.
“I knew I wanted to expand my family in DeKalb so my two sons could attend these amazing schools,” he said. “I thought it would be a perfect place to work, and it was.”
Swanson earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Georgia in 1989, his master’s degree in educational leadership from Jacksonville State University in 2001, and his doctorate in educational leadership from Mercer University in 2015.
He started as a paraprofessional at Chapel Hill Elementary School. He worked his way to a teaching position at Stone Mountain Middle School, assistant principal at DeKalb School of the Arts then Redan High School, principal at Dunwoody High School then Arabia Mountain High School, and regional superintendent.
He is now retired as a part-time substitute as Director of Vocational, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE).
“Being an educator is amazing because I’ve had the opportunity to positively impact students, families, and communities in DeKalb County,” he said. “I have learned so much about myself from students and families which has helped me to have a positive impact on my immediate and extended family.”
Swanson was named Outstanding Administrator of the Year for the Georgia Tech Student Association for the 2018-2019 school year, Region 4 Principal of the Year for the 2015-2016 school year, Director of of the Atlanta Urban Debate League for the 2014-2015 school year and the 2002 Teacher of the Year for Stone Mountain Middle School.
He also had a positive impact on his colleagues. Acting Superintendent for Region 7 Atesha Lester served as one of her coordinators for Region 7. She said working with Swanson has been a great experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He has shown leadership, responsibility and connectedness. You could see how he leveraged those traits to build capacity and relationships with his leaders and the Region 7 community,” Lester said.
Lester also said Swanson is passionate about growing leaders.
“He recommended that I attend the Academy of Creative Coaching Class so that I could train building leaders to think about themselves, identify solutions and be accountable. ‘gave me the autonomy and freedom to do my job, which showed his confidence and belief in my abilities,” she said. “Most importantly, Dr. Swanson showed us everything the people can do when they feel supported and appreciated.”
At the January meeting of the DeKalb County Board of Education, Board Chair Vickie B. Turner called Swanson a servant-leader and a silent giant who “has worked with us in the cause of education of children”.
“I had the privilege of working with him at Arabia Mountain High School, where he was an exemplary leader. I’m very proud of the legacy that was left there,” Turner said. “I think he left an indelible mark on this neighborhood, and we’re all the better off that he was there. Thank you very much for your service in this district.
Swanson said he would miss a lot about working at DCSD.
“I will miss the students the most. I will miss the parents. I will miss the ongoing strategic planning to ensure all students succeed and have fun at school,” he said. “I will miss the challenge of being an educator. I will also miss the relationships I forged with the many District employees. »
Although Swanson plans to continue supporting the district in times of need, he will spend most of his retirement with his family, working in the community and traveling the world.