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The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

Swanson back at Yutan with new perspective

Millie Dieckman
Special education teacher Michael Swanson sits at his desk planning for the day. Swanson supervises one special education study hall and spends the rest of his day supporting students in the classroom.

Having a high percentage of alumni returning as teachers is one of the unique features of Yutan Public Schools. Michael Swanson, who once walked the halls as a student, showcases this pattern by returning as a special education teacher. Although his teaching journey hasn’t always been a continuous one, he is happy to be back and working with the rest of the special education department to take a new angle on special education teaching.

“Being an alma mater, it’s always been the plan for me to return. I think most people when they go into teaching, they wish they could teach at their old school, especially if they enjoyed their time like I did,”  Swanson said.

At the beginning of his collegiate journey, Swanson had no idea he wanted to pursue special education. He was studying to be a physical therapist, but Swanson felt inspired after talking to a friend who happened to be an education major.

“One of my best friends was in the teaching program, so I pivoted to what he was doing and his schedule and everything. So I leaned towards teaching and then really settled on special education because I like working with behavioral students and a little more physically challenging students,” Swanson said.

However, due to some staff negativity within the education department at his previous college, Swanson briefly turned away from teaching. Instead, he decided to join his family’s business and help them run their produce stand. 

“I had known that I was going to buy my aunt’s produce stand and kind of that family business stuff is what I was going to do,” said Swanson.

I wasn’t really planning on filling the special education job, but seeing how much I actually enjoyed being a para and being back in the classroom was a great experience.

— Michael Swanson

Then in 2021, a coaching job for the junior high girls basketball program at Yutan opened up.  Swanson, noticing there were only two other girls’ coaches at the time, decided to re-insert his presence at Yutan Public Schools by taking the job.  It was through his coaching experience that Swanson felt inspired to take up teaching once again.  Initially, he started working as a paraprofessional at the high school in the fall of 2022.

“I wasn’t really planning on filling the special education job, but seeing how much I actually enjoyed being a para and being back in the classroom was a great experience,” said Swanson.  

Being new, Swanson has a fresh perspective on special education teaching. He and the rest of the department want to utilize the expertise of the classroom teachers. They are working with students and teachers to provide support for individuals inside of the classroom instead of pulling students out so much.

 “We’re just partnering with all of our teachers trying to figure out how can we make the best environments for learning,” said Swanson. 

Swanson believes that everyone learns differently and has a unique way of interpreting information. 

 “We want to use the students’ abilities in the best possible way for them to learn. That’s why I like the challenge of finding different ways and different environments to help them learn. Because not everybody learns the same,” said Swanson.

Because of his coaching background, Swanson can connect with his students in multiple ways. 

Fellow special education teacher Kathy Lewis pointed out the benefits of this, saying, “He adds a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the program, in sports especially, and having a role model in this department is important.” 

Swanson has been coaching longer than teaching and currently helps with football, baseball,” and wrestling. 

“He’s a fun coach. He’s always trying to help whenever we need it,” said sophomore wrestler Anna Rupp. “He always made sure we understood the movements, and he’d always teach us. If my teammates were learning something else, he would make sure we had it down before moving on.”

Whether in the classroom or on the wrestling mat, Swanson strives to help his students be the best version of themselves they can be. He believes that little changes achieve big results.

“Just getting 1 percent better every day. Whether it’s you’re getting better at a test or just vocab, but just being 1 percent happier every day, being 1 percent more successful,” said Swanson.  “And so just thinking about improving yourself no matter what area it is. One percent a day might not seem like a lot but over a year adds up.”

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About the Contributor
Millie Dieckman
Millie Dieckman, Junior writer
Millie Dieckman is a junior and in her first year of journalism.  She enjoys writing newspaper stories.  Outside journalism, Millie is involved in volleyball, basketball, and plans to do speech.
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