A dynamic and energetic leader, Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman shaped the lives of thousands of students and teachers during her 24 years at the helm of Corbett Preparatory School.
She loved introducing Corbett Prep to new families, aspiring teachers, international visitors, and even strangers she met while traveling. Anyone who came through the school became family, and she was a fierce advocate for her graduates and the educators she had trained. She had strong opinions about teaching methods and child-rearing, the value of positive phrasing and the uniqueness of all learners, and she worked tirelessly to keep Corbett Prep at the forefront of brain-based education.
In 2021, the Florida Council of Independent Schools (FCIS) recognized her as a “teacher’s teacher” with the prestigious Edgar McCleary Service Award. “You create magic,” Dr. Barbara Hodges, executive director of FCIS, told her during the award presentation.
Dr. Swarzman passed away peacefully on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the age of 75 following a long fight with ALS.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Dr. Swarzman received her B.A. degree from Ohio State University. She received her M.A. in Counseling, her M.Ed. in Supervision and Curriculum, and her Doctorate in Teacher Education, all from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. Dr. Swarzman gained extensive experience as a classroom teacher in the inner cities of Chicago, Atlanta and New York.
In 1996, Dr. Swarzman joined Corbett Prep – then Independent Day School. At the time, she was the director of the University of South Florida’s Suncoast Area Teacher Training program. She planned to stay at IDS for just two years. It turned into more than two decades.
She brought to IDS/Corbett Prep her commitment to professional development, hosting conferences in cooperative learning, social-emotional learning, and brain-based communication. She personally trained more than 20,000 teachers locally, nationally, and internationally. She created the research-based M.O.R.E. Model (Multiple Options for Results in Education) with strategies designed to establish a brain-friendly learning environment, and she traveled to Spain and China to share those methods with schools worldwide. Her educational theories are detailed in the 2004 book It’s All about Kids: Every Child Deserves a Teacher of the Year.
Her legacy continues at Corbett Prep under Head of School Nicholas Rodriguez, who took on the position in 2020 as Dr. Swarzman turned her focus to supporting initiatives and training. Rodriguez, who has two decades of experience in private and independent schools, honed his leadership skills during a yearlong fellowship with Dr. Swarzman.
Even after her illness kept her from visiting campus, Dr. Swarzman remained involved behind-the-scenes, sharing her ideas and advice and watching student performances and competitions on Zoom.
The McCleary Service Award she received in 2021 spotlights Florida educators who go above and beyond in their service. From the day she arrived at Orange Grove Drive, Dr. Swarzman gave everything she had to IDS and Corbett Prep. Last year, she wrote to the Corbett Prep community: “Once a teacher, always a teacher."