Holding out his cellphone, former Fairview Elementary principal Tony Swan displayed a photograph of first-graders in Shannon Kappas’ 2006-07 class at Fairview Elementary.
A handful of the same students, who graduate on Sunday from Klamath Union High School, sat around the table with Swan, now KU’s principal, recalling memories made along the way.
The senior class this year contains about 20 students who attended Fairview Elementary before it closed in spring 2013, and when Swan served as principal in the mid-2000’s.
Swan said he makes an effort to be fair to all of his students but certainly has a special bond with those who attended elementary school while he served as principal. He has watched them grow up into young adults and on Sunday will watch as they step up to receive their diplomas.
“You guys are pretty special,” Swan told his students Wednesday afternoon. “I’m really proud of how you guys have done and persevered.”
After Fairview Elementary closed, Swan served as principal of Pelican Elementary. He came to KU as co-principal in 2017 and assumed the role of principal in January 2018.
He had served as a counselor at KU for three years before entering elementary education administration.
“Having that kind of counseling and being strongly embedded in the community goes a long way,” Swan said.
Swan said that while he had young children at home, he at one time didn’t want to pursue the job of a high school principal due to the demands. Now with his own children grown up and in their 20s, he considers the students at KU his “kids” in addition to his own.
Swan said he and many others enjoyed teaching at Fairview, especially because many of the students were known for having “grit” and worked hard in spite of numerous challenges.
“Knowing that and seeing that you have clawed your way to the end is pretty great,” Swan said.
“What we didn’t know when you were that young was all that you would do. We weren’t really sure what your interests were going to be.”
First grade memories
“What do you remember from first grade?” Swan asked students.
Senior Evelyn Usher fired off a memory, recalling a time when she and her friends used the fire escape as a secret passageway that connected to her classroom.
“What else do you remember?” Swan asked.
“Recess,” another student chimed in, drawing laughter from the room.
Reflecting on elementary years, Tyler Eastburn said, “It makes me feel kind of old.”
Eastburn, 18, is getting back on his feet after a brush with the law earlier this year. He’s turning his life around and is hopeful to enter the U.S. Navy, with dreams of working as a sonar technician on a submarine.
“I’m getting my life back on track,” Eastburn said.
Swan said he’s particularly proud to see Eastburn finish strong.
“He’s got that grit,” Swan said. “It’s really, really a pleasure to see him finish.”
Usher wants to study geology at University of Oregon, or, if possible, she’d like to pursue a degree in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Business and accounting is the goal for Alexis Johnson, who plans to attend Klamath Community College after high school.
Tory Carson isn’t sure about her career path, but plans to attend KCC, with an interest in early childhood education.
Tavian Kalus wants to pursue filmmaking. All are walking at KU’s graduation today.
Before walking, the Class of 2019 students shared somewhat of their own highlight reel from their four years, including this last year as seniors and an honest review of the renovations to the school, which included studying in makeshift classroom modulars and the lack of a cafeteria or nacho bar.
But they also reveled in having more spaces to hang out, and of course, being out of the modulars.
“It’s been a different experience every single year,” Kalus said.
Senior Tory Carson said it was hard at times to play volleyball without a small gym earlier in high school. She and others played at Ponderosa Middle School’s gym.
Carson was playing in a pre-season volleyball game last fall when it was discovered that the word Klamath was misspelled on Pel Court.
“I’d been playing on it for like weeks before this even happened and I didn’t even notice,” Carson said.
“Students thought it was funny, the parents were mad,” Kalus said.
“Stories, good stories,” said Swan. “It’s extremely special, you know, to be able to have students that you’ve watched grow up through the years. I’ve been fortunate.”
Swan said he had students whom he previously had in school graduate in the class of 2018, too.
“Every year I will be seeing kids that I know,” Swan said.