BARTOW BIO: Major life change led McSwain from aimlessness to Teacher of Year

Posted 10/6/19

As a college student, Chris McSwain didn’t know what his purpose in life was, but he certainly didn’t think it was teaching. Divine intervention, however, led him down a path that took him …

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BARTOW BIO: Major life change led McSwain from aimlessness to Teacher of Year

As a college student, Chris McSwain didn’t know what his purpose in life was, but he certainly didn’t think it was teaching. 
Divine intervention, however, led him down a path that took him from aimlessness to the title of Teacher of the Year for Cartersville Middle School and for the Cartersville City School System. 
McSwain, a sixth-grade social studies teacher who formerly taught math at the middle school, won the prestigious title after never having a burning desire to be an educator.
“Before my 20s, I didn’t [want to be a teacher],” he said. “To be honest, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have any real passion for anything productive.”
But McSwain’s directionless life was about to chart a new, definitive course. 
“Finally, while in college at Kennesaw State [University], the Lord got ahold of me and changed my life from the inside out,” he said. “All of a sudden, I felt a purpose that was previously unknown. I knew I needed to work with middle school kids, and I have never doubted it since.”

Name: Chris McSwain

Age: 38

Occupational title: Teacher

City of residence: Cartersville

Education: Bachelor’s degree in math and social studies education, master’s degree in mathematics education, specialist degree in curriculum and instruction

Family: Wife, Randi Winn; three girls, Lilly Kate, Julianna and Elizabeth Winn


Daily Tribune News: When did you start working for the Cartersville City School System, and why did you want to work there?

Chris McSwain: This is my fourth year working for Cartersville City. I’m a graduate of the Cartersville City School System and always wanted to eventually get back here. I loved my decade spent at Woodland Middle School, but I’m glad to be a Hurricane again. 


DTN: What has it been like for you to be the school district’s Teacher of the Year and its representative in the state competition? 


CM: It has been a very humbling experience. I work with some of the best teachers in the state of Georgia. To be honored among them has been overwhelming at times. 


DTN: After teaching math for so many years, why did you decide to switch to social studies? 


CM: I have wanted to teach social studies since graduating college. My first job offer was in mathematics, and I sort of got stuck there for 13 years. I love teaching math, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to finally teach social studies. Two months in, and it has already been a great experience. I am blessed with some incredible students and supportive parents this year.


DTN: What do you enjoy most about your job and why, and what do you like least about it and why?


CM: I love working with middle school-aged kids. They energize me on a daily basis. There is never a dull moment in a middle school. A wide variety of personalities are on full display. I think people seem to get a bit boring as we age; not so much in a middle school. It really is a fun job. The part of the job I like the least is when I can’t motivate a student to learn. Sometimes we learn things about kids that are heartbreaking. Some of the issues they deal with are out of our control, and it is hard to accept that I can’t help change their mindset. I believe all students can learn, but some of them just don’t want to, and it often keeps me up at night.


DTN: What has been the most memorable thing that has happened regarding the school system since you’ve been there?


CM: Aside from watching Trevor Lawrence throw incredible touchdown passes, it has probably been the awesome teachers I’m blessed to work with. My colleagues at WMSE were wonderful, and it was difficult to leave. I miss them. However, the CMS staff has been very welcoming and have challenged me to be better at my job. 


DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

CM: I loved collecting baseball cards as a kid. I still have tons in my basement. My favorite MLB player was Nolan Ryan, the strikeout king – probably because I struck out all the time in Little League. I still have over 500 different cards of his, along with an autographed baseball.


DTN: If you could have dinner with any historical figure or celebrity, past or present, who would you pick and why?


CMMy “mamaw.” You won’t find her in a history book, but she is a historical figure to me. She was a phenomenal educator in Gordon County for 30-plus years. Beyond her job, Margaret was an incredible, godly person. Memories of her still inspire me as an educator and to be a better person. I ate many meals with her and would love to sit down and have one more dinner. She would be much more interesting than any celebrity I can think of.


DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words? 

CM: Made for retirement


DTN: If you could visit any period or event in the past, what would you choose and why?

CM: I would revisit the 90s. This was a fun decade; however, due to my own shortsightedness, full of mistakes. I would love to return to this decade with a better understanding of all the opportunities ahead of me and better prepare myself. I wasted many days then and would love to have them back to do something more productive. 


DTN: Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what is the one thing you most look forward to accomplishing?

CM: I’ve never really made a bucket list. However, I can’t wait until my daughters are a little older so my wife and I can travel with them more. 


DTN: What would the title of your autobiography be and why? 


CM: “Out of Darkness, Into the Light: A Story of Redemption.” Why? Because I was once in darkness – lost and cluel