Although her title says “teacher,” Terri Swedenburg labels herself a “learner.”

She’s been teaching for 23 years, but Swedendburg keeps coming back to the classroom at Little Rock Christian because she loves to ask questions — and to help her students find the answers.

“I love to learn. As far back as I can remember I have been curious and have asked a lot of ‘why’ questions,” Swedenburg says. “It was an easy decision for me to choose the path of teaching because it affords me the chance to be a lifelong learner.”

As a history teacher, she gets to help students answer those big questions in even bigger ways: by traveling the world. In 2008, she had the opportunity to launch an international travel program through the school that began with 30 students and chaperones on a trip to Great Britain.

The experience opens students’ eyes to new cultures and they’re able to see the impact of history and literature across the world. But it’s also a trip that teaches a multitude of practical life skills.

“For many students, this is their first time out of the country, so the learning curve is not just the destination, but the process as well — how to pack, how to avoid jet lag, going through customs, to name a few,” Swedenburg said. “I truly believe that travel changes you, expands who you are as a person and teaches you to be grateful.”

These trips are some of Swedenburg’s favorite teaching moments. She says she loves watching students experience historical sites that they may have only read about or seen photos of in the past. Getting to watch her students interact with people on the other side of the world is what she says is a “perfect picture of being a teacher: opening the world to your students.”

In everything she does, Swedenburg is working to prepare her students for life after high school. In 2009, she began offering a self-defense class for graduating senior girls. With her background in martial arts and input from experts, Swedenburg developed a series of two classes with tips for helping her students stay safe.

“My goal for the young ladies who take this class is for them to live life [with] confidence while being aware and prepared,” Swedenburg said.

As she prepares her students for life beyond high school, she knows that parents are the front line when it comes to instilling great character qualities and a love for learning. She’s had that experience with her own three children as well, each of whom graduated from Little Rock Christian. In a sense, she’s been a teacher at home and in the classroom, and she couldn’t imagine her life any other way.

As she says, “I think I could have chosen another career path, but it would not have brought the joy and fulfillment that teaching has to my life.”

Do you know a central Arkansas teacher who works hard every day to inspire his or her students to learn, reach goals and dream? Click here and nominate him or her for one of our 2021 Amazing Educator Awards!

See more of this year's Amazing Educators.