About Me

As an award-winning educator and experienced administrator, Karen Swanson has committed her life's work to shaping the brilliant young minds of tomorrow. Since the beginning of her career, Swanson has shown an unwavering dedication to teaching, mentoring, learning, student engagement, public relations, and being an advocate for educational entities. While she has amassed 30 illustrious years of experience, Swanson's ambitions and passion drive her forward still. In her continued work, she strives to build educators’ capacity to increase student access, educational equity, and workforce diversity while fostering engagement with the local community and business partners.

Academic Background

Karen Swanson's dedication to education isn't just reserved for her students and the lives she transforms. While encouraging young minds and advocating for education, Swanson has also spent the last three decades challenging herself to strive for higher educational attainment. Her post high school educational journey began back in 1985 when she entered Arizona State University (ASU). From 1985 to 1991, Karen Swanson attended ASU and earned a Bachelor's degree in English and Secondary Education. During this time, she was also awarded a Post Baccalaureate degree. Afterward, Swanson attended the University of Phoenix from 1996 through 1998 —where she earned her Master of Arts, Education - Administration. With educational achievement at the forefront of her mind, Swanson then attended Iowa State University from 2012 through 2014, working towards her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.

Professional Career

After graduating from ASU in 1991, Swanson began her career as a Middle School Counselor and Teacher. She enjoyed almost eight years in the Scottsdale Unified School District, helping students prepare for high school and beyond. In August of 2003, Swanson started in the Fairfield Community School District as a High School Counselor. The Fairfield Community School District serves students from Jefferson County, Henry County, Van Buren County, Wapello County, and Washington County. She remained in Fairfield Community School District until July of 2007.

After leaving Fairfield Community School, Swanson accepted a position as the Director of High School Programs for Indian Hills Community College. For a decade, Swanson coordinated programs, courses, contracts, and partnerships between the college and school districts. She also worked as a liaison between the college, K-12 institutions, businesses, and industry. Indian Hills Community College (IHCC) is a public community college in Iowa that serves around 6,000 students with campuses in Ottumwa and Centerville. IHCC serves both traditional residential students and commuter students, spanning across a ten-county area in southeast Iowa as well as portions of northern Missouri.

In 2017, Karen Swanson joined the Centerville Community School District as the Principal for Howar Middle School. Overseeing all higher-level operations at the Jr High School, Swanson is responsible for establishing a safe and conducive learning environment while setting performance goals for teachers and students. And the fruits of her labor have been noticeable. Currently, Howar Middle School is ranked 94th in the state and serves just south of 300 students. Under Swanson's guidance, 70% of the students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 69% scored at or above that level for reading — both of which are ""Well Above Expectations"" based on U.S. News & World Report.

Community Involvement

Karen Swanson's dedication and involvement with education has always extended well past the doors of the school. Swanson takes an active hand in the local and national educational community. From 2009 through 2013, Swanson served as the Chairperson for the Iowa Tech Prep Coordinators — where she coordinated the state-wide group of community college coordinators for high school programs and technical preparation groups. She has been involved in several state-wide organizations and has been in all officer positions of the Iowa Association of Career and Technical Education (IACTE) dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. Karen has also been active as a state team member with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE). NAPES’s STEM Equity Pipeline project equipped Karen with the skills to positively influence and increase the numbers of female students participating in Project Lead the Way courses. In addition, she has advocated for CTE on Capitol Hill during NAPE’s annual public policy day initiatives.


Because of her unwavering dedication to advancing education throughout her community, state, and nation, Swanson has been the recipient of a number of distinguished honors and accolades.

Award of Merit, Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) Region III, 2021. The ACTE's mission is to provide educational leadership in creating a competitive workforce. This organization strives to empower educators to produce high quality CTE initiatives to ensure all students are best positioned for success.

Unsung Hero Award, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), 2018. The Unsung Hero Award honors educators and individuals who have managed major programs or projects and works in the trenches every day. This individual must have also made a significant impact in ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion in education that leads to high-skill, high-wage, in-demand careers and study programs.

In addition, Karen Swanson earned the Career Pathways Leadership Certification in 2007, Most Inspirational Teacher, Western Illinois University in 2005; True Colors™ Trainer in 1999; and Outstanding Teacher Award, Brophy College Preparatory in 1998.


Karen Swanson Portfolio