On education and leadership: Stacey Swanson driven by Catholic school tradition

Stacey Swanson of Immaculate Conception is  driven by Catholic school tradition

Immaculate Conception School Principal Stacey Swanson understands all too well that teachers have many responsibilities. Students may turn to teachers when they need emotional support, guidance or mentoring.

“There is a lot that is put on teachers right now,” Swanson said. “They wear so many hats, and us being a very small Catholic school, we don’t have a social worker. I don’t have an assistant principal. I don’t have a school nurse. I have a very small staff.”

As Teacher Appreciation Month – which is observed every year in May – approached, Swanson reflected on what it means to her now as she is a principal.

“Teachers should be appreciated all the time, especially during the pandemic for all of the work that they are putting in which is way above and beyond what any teacher has ever had to do,” she said.

Swanson has devoted 28 years to teaching students. She may no longer perform the day-to-day duties of a teacher, but the top education official at Immaculate Conception School in Morris remains driven from a leadership perspective by the Catholic school tradition.

Swanson’s friend, Diane McKillip, said faith plays a huge role in her life, and it has led to a nearly 30-year friendship.

“Our husbands coached football at Marian Catholic together,” McKillip said. “That’s how we met, and we’ve been friends ever since.”

McKillip also taught at the same school as Swanson for two years. McKillip said it’s clear Swanson has a passion for her work that transcends both her personal and professional lives.

“It was definitely part of her life,” McKillip said.

There are moments when Swanson’s work schedule is busy and times when it’s less.

Immaculate Conception School secretary Sherry Friend said it’s clear Swanson has embraced the moments on the job when she can interact with the students.

“She has an open-office policy with the kids,” she said.

Among the things Swanson is most known for around the school building is introducing the students to Boomer, the therapy dog that she acquired earlier on during the pandemic, Friend said.

Friend stressed that bringing a sense of normalcy to students and their families was made possible thanks to Swanson’s leadership.

“When COVID hit, it was Stacey’s second year with us and she was amazing in guiding us through it,” Friend said. “She enabled us to have our students in class, which we all thought was the best place for them.”