Guidance Counselor John Swack has announced his retirement after working with children and families for 17 years in Simpson County Schools. He has been at FES since 2001 and also began working at SES four years ago.
"I was teaching fourth grade in the Russellville Independent System, and I got my Master's and Rank I in counseling from WKU," Swack said. "I'd been in the classroom a while … I thought it would be enjoyable to work with kids individually in a counseling setting and make more of an impact across the whole school. If I'm a classroom teacher, I can only impact those 22 kids or so."
In order to reach the hundreds of students he works with, Swack teaches guidance classes almost daily as well as meeting with children and families individually. For his work, he has been named FES's 2005 Lions Club Teacher of the Year and the school district's 2008 Employee of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner.
"Classroom instruction is a good way to meet the kids, to get to know them and their families," Swack said. "If you sit in a meeting with them every now and then or pass them in the hall, they don't get what they need. You also get to find out where they're coming from."
Swack's classroom units range from anger management and honesty to Internet safety and living drug-free.
"I'll have a story and then we'll do some sort of activity over all those different things," he said. "There are games and videos that go with it, but a lot of times I try and use books or an activity that keeps them engaged. When I was in school, you'd be in the hallway, see the counselor and tell your friends, 'I think that's the counselor.' It's been a lot more hands-on over the last many years."
Although Swack sees most of his students in the classroom each week, they also know him for helping out in the gym, at breakfast or with car rider duties. He has also chaired multiple committees at FES, including the Safety Committee and Handbook Committee.
"Hopefully, I've helped kids with some of the skills I've taught so they can use them in their daily lives," Swack said. "There have been a lot of victories where families figured out some stuff and worked out issues through us talking, and kids who've done better academically and emotionally in the classroom. Every day is a high point."
After retirement, Swack hopes to catch up on personal projects at home and continue counseling part-time, whether through a school system or the private sector.
"Simpson County Schools is a great place to work, it's been a good 17 years here and it's a great school system," he said. "I'm going to miss the people, the families and the kids, but hopefully I can come back every now and then to visit."