Mary Catherine Swanson Founder and Member of Board of Directors, AVID (Credential '67)
January 26, 2010
Mary Catherine Swanson taught high school English for 20 years.
During that time she was instrumental in developing numerous
award winning language arts programs. In 1980 she developed AVID,
a secondary school program which prepares underachieving students
for four-year college entry. Today 95 percent of AVID graduates
enroll in college. Mary Catherine created the AVID Center in 1992
to support the in-school program.
Among the awards and recognition Mary Catherine has received are
the A+ Award for Reaching the Goals of America 2000 from the U.S.
Department of Education, the EXCEL Award for Excellence in
Teaching, the Salute to Excellence from the American Association
for Higher Education, the Headliner of the Year from the San
Diego Press Club, Cable’s Leaders in Learning Award for
General Excellence, a recognition of her
innovative leadership, University of San Diego Remarkable
Leader in Education, and University of California, Davis
Distinguished Achievement Award.
CNN/Time Magazine named her America’s Best Teacher in 2001, and
she was one of three 2001 recipients of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr.
Prize in Education. She is listed in Who’s Who in
America, and has been the commencement speaker at numerous
universities, earning three honorary doctorates.
Swanson is the only public school teacher ever to have won the
$50,000 award for Pioneering Achievement in Education from the
Charles A. Dana Foundation in New York. In presenting that award
the Foundation cited her for “heeding the teacher’s calling at
the highest level of professional dedication in developing AVID,
an imaginative restructuring of the school day that has given
thousands of students the skills, support, and guidance that they
need to fulfill their potential – far too tragically overlooked -
to prepare for a college education.”
Swanson’s contribution to American education has also been
recognized by Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, who
wrote, ”I don’t know any single person in the country who
has done more for our school children than AVID founder Mary
She has been married for 45 years and is the mother of Tom
Swanson, a graduate of Stanford University and a history teacher
at Del Norte High School in San Diego, California. Tom’s decision
to enter teaching is Mary Catherine’s proudest moment.