Cowern teacher Julie Swanson makes Teacher of the Year semifinals

Julie Swanson
Julie Swanson

Julie Swanson was recently named one of the 34 semifinalists for the 2016 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. 

Swanson has been a teacher for 17 years, and a high school girls basketball coach for 15 of those years. She teaches third grade at Cowern Elementary School, and was a semifinalist for last year’s Minnesota Teacher of the Year award as well.

Swanson says she knew from an early age that she wanted to teach. She and her sister, who is also a teacher, loved playing school when they were children.

“My parents went out and actually bought us a teacher’s desk, and we used to set up our basement into a makeshift classroom,” Swanson says.

She began her teaching career at Beaver Lake Elementary in Maplewood, and then she taught at Carver Elementary in Maplewood for 13 years. This is her fourth year at Cowern.

“My favorite part of my job is connecting with kids and families,” Swanson says.

She spends much of her time attending her students’ recitals and sporting events. She even visits her students at home with their families. By doing this, Swanson says she establishes trust with her students and is able to connect their individual interests to the classroom curriculum. 

“When they know I care, they trust, and the amazing learning begins to take place,” she says.  

Cowern principal Gena Abrahamson says, “She’s hardworking. She’s dedicated. She’s all about students and families.”

According to Abrahamson, Swanson also actively participates in the school’s Parent Teacher Association. Recently the group hosted a family night that was attended by 420 families. Swanson helped plan, set up and clean up the event; and spent the duration of the event talking and sharing a meal with her students and their families.

“We’re so excited and it’s so well-deserved for her,” Abrahamson said.

A selection committee comprised of 25 Minnesota leaders in education, business and government chose the semifinalists out of 115 candidates. 

The Minnesota Teacher of the Year acts as an advocate for education and spokesperson for teachers. To be eligible for this honor, a teacher must have at least a bachelor’s degree, a Minnesota teaching license, completed at least three years of teaching and the intention to continue teaching. 

Candidates include pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and adult basic education teachers from public and private schools.

In late March the selection committee will choose 10 finalists based on their portfolios. 

Amy Hewett-Olatunde, current Teacher of the Year, will announce her successor Sunday, May 15 at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington.

“This is a huge honor,” Swanson says. “I have been surrounded by amazing teachers and administrators throughout my career who have helped to shape and mold me into the teacher I am today.”


Aundrea Kinney can be reached at or at 651-748-7822.

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