Marshall alumnus Joe Swarm has been a part of the Marshall community for over 34 years as a student, government teacher and now director of student activities.
After Swarm played on the varsity football team and graduated from Marshall in 1989, he joined the Virginia Tech football team.
“By my sophomore year [of college], I was getting the opportunity to play [football], so I had to decide between labs on Saturdays or pursuing the athletic piece,” Swarm said. “I decided I [could] go back and pursue architecture […] afterwards, but I couldn’t go back and pursue playing sports at the collegiate level.”
Swarm majored in government and taught at several schools in Fairfax County (FCPS), including Marshall.
“I guess after I had 60 credits, I was able to substitute teach in Fairfax [County],” Swarm said. “I substituted at probably every high school in the county […] because I wanted to get a feel of each school.”
After substituting at FCPS high schools, Swarm said he knew Marshall was the place for him.
“I just genuinely like the community here,” Swarm said. “This is what I know. I do enjoy it. It’s not a fear of going somewhere else. I think I would work as hard as I could for the students in the community regardless of where I was, but this is the place I’ve always enjoyed.”
When Swarm decided to come back to his former high school, he started out in an awareness position in the fall of 1995 and eventually transitioned into a government teacher.
“I was in charge of [the] study/detention hall that I would have students in,” Swarm said. “The following year, I had the opportunity to have a full slate of classes, and, quite frankly, of the social studies, government was probably the one area that I probably would have not chosen over the other histories.”
But once Swarm settled into the government teaching role, he focused his attention toward making the curriculum more engaging for his students.
“I found that students didn’t enjoy it as much going into [the year],” Swarm said. “They thought it was going to be boring, [but doing] simulations and [making government] exciting for them excited me as a teacher. That’s what every teacher wants. They want to see that spark in students’ eyes, and I knew I could do that much more with making government enjoyable for students than I could in any of the [other] histories.”
Although Swarm said he had no intention of becoming an administrator, he received the position in 2003.
“The principal at the time approached me and asked if I’d be interested [in the position], and thought it would be a really good fit for the school,” Swarm said. “I liked it from the start.”
Five years after the start of his marriage, Swarm had the opportunity to become the director of student activities.
While the busier work schedule was concerning for him, his wife agreed she and their two children would be okay with the longer hours, so Swarm decided to go for the position.