Petersburg Pilot -

Petersburg City Schools have four new teachers for the 2012-13 school year


Petersburg students will have four new teachers to learn from for the 2012-13 school year.

James Rodgers, a 25-year teaching veteran, comes to Petersburg by way of Utah and New Mexico.

Rodgers will teach middle school and high school special education.

“Special education is like a new frontier,” Rodgers said. “You can bring your imagination and novel ideas to this program and someone will learn.”

This is Rodgers first year to teach in Petersburg, but he has had Petersburg classroom experience.

“I substituted quite a bit last year,” Rodgers stated. “I had the opportunity to get to know some of the students. It won’t be completely foreign to me.”

Rodgers has taught special education at every level over his teaching career.

“I love the elementary kids,” Rodgers said. “But I think I’m needed at this level.”

Rodgers explained that his biggest challenge for the year would be just getting the lay of the land. “This is a new situation for me and getting to know the other teachers, students, parents and technology of the program will be a challenge for me as well.”

Dan VanSwearingen is taking his first teaching post as an elementary swim teacher.

“I am primarily set to teach elementary students,” Van Swearingen said. “But I also have two seventh grade classes.”

Van Swearingen is originally from Great Falls, Mont. but comes to Petersburg by way of Kansas City.

“I am really looking forward to having my own classroom and not having to follow someone else’s plan,” VanSwearingen said. “Originally, I was excited to move here just to be in Alaska and I really love it here. I like the hiking, fishing and hunting.”

Van Swearingen went to school to teach Physical Education and Health.

“I never thought I would ever be teaching swimming,” VanSwearingen said. “But after taking the water safety course, this is just another aspect of physical education, it just builds on that foundation.”

VanSwearingen plans to make Petersburg his home and hopes to move into a full time position in the future.

“I don’t think I could have chosen a better place to be for my first teaching assignment,” he said. “I am also so lucky to have Kelly Peterson to help me, she will keep me in line.”

Cynthia Fry comes from Tacoma, Wash. and has been teaching for 11 years in an alternative setting.

Fry fills a position for a brand new program, the high school alternative school.

“This program is primarily for kids that just don’t fit in a campus setting or their behaviors were just too extreme to be successful on campus,” Fry said. “I like to brag that I had the best of the best of Tacoma and I’m assuming I will get the best of the best of Petersburg.”

Fry has tools and resources that will make her an asset to the students of Petersburg.

“I will bring some of my ideas on curriculum,” Fry said. “But I have to know what the exact needs are and this is a great opportunity to create a program from the ground up.”

Her goals at this point are to just get organized and settled to create those community connections that will be key to success for the program and the students.

“I’m looking so forward to this opportunity,” she stated. “I get to work at both ends of the spectrum and every day is a new day.”

Tom Thompson was born and raised in Petersburg, but left to teach in Juneau for 12 years.

Thompson takes the place of long time teacher Bev Sierks who retired last year.

“Bev has set the bar extremely high for me this year,” Thompson said. “She was a wonderful teacher.”

Thompson explained that his goals are to engage the kids and help them know they each have different paths to take in life and he wants to make sure he prepares them to take those paths.

“I don’t really believe I have anything different to offer by way of teaching, except possibly my methods,” Thompson said. “I just want to make sure they are ready for college, vocational training or the work world.”

Mathematics is a tool by which nature is described, he continued.

“We use math to make predictions and choices, it is modeling nature,” he said. “I feel like I am at home, I’m happy to be here and I am really looking forward to teaching math to these high school students.”


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