Effective June 30, a certain contagious laugh and smile will be missed in the Carthage R-9 Administration.

Effective June 30, a certain contagious laugh and smile will be missed in the Carthage R-9 Administration.

After 33 years in education (13 of those years in Carthage), Deborah Swarens, assistant superintendent for instruction, has decided to retire.

As she sat down to reflect on her career, she literally “did the math” on how she's come full circle to Carthage.
“When I came back in 2008 the board didn't realize they were going green – because I had been recycled!” she said with a laugh.

Deborah was salutatorian in her Carthage High School Class of 1975, the second daughter to L.J. “Jay” Downey and Edith (Favinger); they too were Carthage graduates.

“They always started our conversations with 'what do you want to be when you grow up?'” Deborah said of her parents. “My first image of a teacher was my Grandmother Favinger studying for Sunday School. She was a teacher for the adult class, and had all these books spread out, spending hours studying. And I would play school in her basement … Of course I was the teacher – But that image of her was engrained in me as what a teacher is, and I had great teachers growing up. They all have inspired me.”

Deborah was 10 years old when her family moved back to Carthage from Anaheim, Calif. She went to Eugene Field, then sixth grade at Mark Twain, then Carthage junior and high school.

“I never had any unpleasant memories – I grew up always knowing to respect my teachers,” she said. “I spent many years as a teacher's pet.”

Deborah went on to Missouri Southern State College, then transferred to University of Missouri – St. Louis to earn her bachelor's of science in elementary education. She substituted a lot, then came back home to Carthage when her husband, Tom, and she had their first baby.

She starting teaching as a para-professional in reading with Leona Phipps at the Carthage Junior High School. Due to the vice principal's health issues, she moved to teaching history and economics for seventh and eighth grade that following semester. Over the course of the summer,  the school district lost a coach and Deborah moved to teaching sixth grade at Fairview Elementary. She stayed there from 1982-1988.

Deborah earned her master's in administration from Pittsburg State University and took a position with the Jasper School District for two years. From there, she moved to Monett and remained there for 18 years. In 2008, she was approached with an opportunity to move back to Carthage.

“This is home for me,” she said. “I felt like I could add something to the district, and as it's been said before, this is a great place to end a career. I feel the district is on the right path. The students, teachers and administration are on a trajectory to making progress. There is still a lot of work ahead – that's not going to change. But I feel the teachers are better equipped professionally, more than they've ever been, to face diversity, the ever-changing Missouri learning standards and accountability systems.

“I want people to know we have a great school system. It's very hard to leave.

“I hope this community continues to support the schools because we have a lot to support. The school board and superintendent have great plans for the future to continue to move the district forward. This administration cares about all its students, and the parents attached to those students. They try to do the right thing for the kids and I admire that greatly … You don't find that in every district.”

Tom and Deborah plan to spend their retirement with family; including their parents; two daughters, Sara Hall and Emily Jenkins; and four grandchildren (between the ages of one-nine months). Deborah said she felt like a winning football player after the Super Bowl.

“We're going to Disney World,” she said with a big smile. “It's a way to celebrate, because it takes a spouse that understands this isn't an eight-to-four job, and children that understand that too. Which I have been blessed to have.”