TEACHER OF INTEREST
The FIRST-YEAR TEACHER
Ben Swalwell’s youth in England and travels throughout Europe give him a unique perspective on world history, the class he teaches at St. Lucie West
Centennial High School. Teaching during the pandemic has been stressful; he has been quarantined three times this school year.
BY PATTIE DURHAM
Many people might say 2020 has been the worst year of
their lives. Not so for Ben Swalwell. In 2020, he completed
his bachelor’s degree, bought his first home,
welcomed his first child and started his first teaching job.
Pandemic aside, it was a good year for the Swalwell family.
Born and raised in a very small town near York, England, he
has traveled a long and winding road to Port St. Lucie, where
he teaches world history to 10th graders at St. Lucie West Centennial
High School. A soccer player in college, he suffered a
serious back injury that led him to coaching. Leaving England,
Swalwell moved to Italy where he was a bartender for a year.
There, like kismet, he met his wife, Fort Pierce native Jillian
Yetzer, who was working in Italy as an au pair.
The couple married in Fort Pierce in 2017 and Swalwell, who
was on a student visa, enrolled in Indian River State College.
Work on an associate degree in education slowly evolved into
a degree in history. Once he got his green card, he began online
studies at the University of Central Florida. It wasn’t too long
after that when the Swalwells hit the road. Since his arrival in
the United States, Swalwell has been to 20 states.
“I did my entire bachelor’s degree online,” he says. He did
part of the work at a friends’ dining room table in Flagstaff,
Arizona, and then completed it while working in Wisconsin.
“That’s the great thing about remote learning, you can do
it pretty much anywhere,” he says “I finished in the spring of
2020. We were just about to leave Wisconsin at that point.
“So, 2020 was just this crazy year of like the pregnancy,
finishing my degree, buying a house, having the baby, finding
this job. I’m just waiting for things to die down.”
But things haven’t died down. Swalwell learned shortly after
the year’s end that he had been nominated as his school’s
First-Year Teacher of the Year. Up against some stiff competition,
he didn’t win the county award, but admits it was a
“This is my first year of teaching and I didn’t know there
was such a thing,” he says. “I saw my name come up on the
list at the school. Then they came into the classroom just in
the middle of me teaching to give me the award. It was really
a shock, but it is nice that people are getting recognized for
the work that they do.”
Teaching during a pandemic has been stressful, he says, for
teachers and students. He has been quarantined three times >>
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