AGE: 57. JOB: Early childhood education teacher.
DID YOU KNOW? Gail enjoys hiking — especially in the mountains — and working out.

Gail Swartzendruber has spent 32 years in the Iowa City Community School District teaching early childhood special education, including the last 25 at Coralville Central Elementary School.

Teaching early childhood special education for almost three decades is uncommon, Swartzendruber said, but she can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I found it rewarding,” she said.

The rewards come in the form of the love she receives from her students — hugs, smiles and high-fives — and from seeing former students achieve success in regular education programs, Swartzendruber said. One former student is now grown up with a family of his own. He teaches his daughter’s sports team, Swartzendruber said. Another former student was elected king of his high school’s homecoming court.

“Those kind of things make you feel proud,” she said.

Special education hits close to home for Swartzendruber. Her brother had special needs and growing up and it inspired her to learn more about it. Now she helps young children, ages 3 to 5, with a variety of disabilities or impairments achieve independence in the hopes of integrating into the school’s regular education program. Swartzendruber said she has worked under only two principals at Coralville Central and both have been highly supportive.

“It’s a very positive building, a very supportive building,” she said. “I like to feel like I am part of the team. We all work together for the same goal.”

This year will be Swartzendruber’s last year at Coralville Central as she will retire at the end of the school year. Swartzendruber said she plans to substitute, travel, do volunteer work, take up golf again and “just enjoy life.”

More than anything, Swartzendruber said she’ll miss the students at Coralville Central.

“It’ll be a change,” she said.

— Lee Hermiston

Coralville Central Elementary teacher Gail Swartzendruber

Coralville Central Elementary School

ADDRESS: 501 Sixth St., Coralville.
Barb Jenkins.
ENROLLMENT: 435 students.

School fun fact

Coralville Central was designated as a arboretum in 1987 and more trees are planted at the school each year.