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'Great Teacher' Kathy Swan Learns Alongside Her Students

What are University of Kentucky professors like? Meet Kathy Swan.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 12, 2021) — Six of the University of Kentucky's passionate and accomplished educators were surprised earlier this spring by student nominators and the UK Alumni Association as 2021 Great Teacher Award recipients.

Kathy Swan is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients. The UK College of Education professor of curriculum and instruction loves nothing more than learning alongside her students.

“What really matters to me is being present in the classroom, not just teaching my classes, but to be really present and listen to the students,” Swan said. “I’ll take the Pepsi Challenge, my students are the best, you’re not going to beat them. The students teach me that we’re always learning and that we’re learning together and that we are in this together.”

Swan currently teaches courses focusing on social studies methods for secondary teachers. She served as the project director and lead writer of the College, Career and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards and is the co-founder/co-director of C3 Teachers. Her most recent project, Making Inquiry Possible, took Swan behind the scenes as the director of a series of documentary films featuring social studies teachers from across the state who are implementing the new social studies standards that focus on inquiry. 

Swan works with a range of museums and educational organizations including the Smithsonian American History and Native American History museums, the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Geographic. She is an award-winning educator who has co-authored and edited many bestselling books including: "Inquiry-Based Practice in Social Studies Education: The Inquiry Design Model"; "Inquiry Design Model: Building Inquiries in Social Studies"; and "Blueprinting an Inquiry Based Curriculum: Planning with the Inquiry Design Model."  

When asked how she felt about receiving the Great Teacher Award, Swan had this to say, “I’m totally overwhelmed. This year has probably been one of my toughest at UK, maybe in life, it’s really hard to put into words what this award has meant this year, in this moment, in this time and the fact that it came from students that know me best. Awards like this reward the small spaces of the classroom.”

Learn more about why this UK Alumni Association 2021 "Great Teacher" loves connecting with students to help them achieve what's wildly possible both in their future careers and in life in the video above.

Swan is just one of the 2021 UK Alumni Association Great Teacher award winners. This summer, UKNow will highlight each of these Great Teachers. Watch their stories here

Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.

Kathy Swan, one of UK's 2021 Great Teacher Award recipients.
Kathy Swan, one of UK's 2021 Great Teacher Award recipients.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.