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Educational Leadership student says rigor of program led to her success

Dawn Swanson earned highest score IU Northwest has seen on state exam

Monday Dec 23, 2013

After working as a grocery chain store manager for 11 years, Dawn Swanson, of Crown Point, spent a few years as a stay-at-home mom. When the youngest of her three girls went to kindergarten, she started working as a substitute teacher, and then, a teacher’s aide. After spending two months in a third-grade classroom, Swanson decided she wanted a class of her own.

So at the age of 38, she sat down with her husband and three young girls and announced that she was going to college at Indiana University Northwest so that she could become a teacher.

“The toughest part was getting started,” Swanson said. “After that, it just fit. I love being a student. I think that is why at 44 I am still going to school.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2008, Swanson is now in her fifth year of teaching. But it wasn’t long before Swanson felt the need to make a larger impact and affect the lives of more children by way of a leadership role. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and looking towards a June 2014 graduation once her practicum is complete.

Swanson’s high standard for excellence resulted in the highest score ever recorded at IU Northwest on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment (SLLA), the exam that the state requires in order to become a licensed principal. 

Though she readily admits that her success is partly due to sheer determination, Swanson believes the program itself set her up well. In particular, she appreciated the small class sizes and the cohesiveness of the cohort. But most importantly, she valued the rigor of the program.

“When I look back at the work I’ve done over the past two years to meet the course requirements,” she said, “. . . I am amazed at how rigorous it was but how sensibly it came together. Not only has the program prepared me well, but it was delivered in a logical format.”

She explained that the faculty’s expectations for the students are set high, but they are not set high without support. And, faculty never lose sight of the real reason they are there – to create educators who bring passion to the classroom.

“I really believe the rigor of our program makes a difference in developing educational leaders with a heart,” Swanson said. “I find that missing in some other programs. I feel like they are all business. They are focused on the technical skills of getting the job done.”

Swanson subscribes to the philosophy that, “none of us is as smart as all of us” and that is how she intends to carry herself as a leader.

“My vision for myself as an agent of change is to build better connections with families and communities because that is where our children will achieve,” she said. “I want to see great test scores, but above that, I want to see good citizens and strong healthy families and that starts with making some connections.”

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