2020 WOA Education Award Honoree

Categories: Advocacy, Awards, Community

Jan Swanson

2020 Women of Achievement Honoree

~ Education Award ~

Congratulations Jan!

Thank You For Living Out YWCA Spokane’s Mission

Throughout her life, Jan has demonstrated leadership and innovation in the field of education by solving a critical need in the community and raising the bar to improve the lives of women and children. Her school sought and achieved accreditation in 1989 by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the first early childhood program to do so in Eastern Washington. Since then, the elementary school has also been accredited by AdvanceED and formed partnerships with Whitworth University’s Gifted and Talented Education program along with Prodigy Northwest.

Jan began her work to provide high-quality early childhood education for Pacific Northwest children when she founded her own early learning center in 1981, first called North Wall Child Development Center (now North Wall Schools). Jan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education and a Masters degree in Gifted Education, both from Whitworth University. She is a K-12 certified teacher, and her teaching experience spans preschool, elementary school, high school, and college. She taught classes and wrote written curriculum for the early childhood education program at Spokane Falls Community College.

Throughout her career, Jan has worked to empower women in the workplace, paying them higher salaries than the standard child-care rate. In her eyes, employees were not babysitters or caregivers–they were all teachers and were treated as such. They were expected to have a BA in Elementary Education or an AAS in early childhood or credits in those fields.  Every staff member including herself was expected to take more credits toward professional development each year and to teach the new material to the others. They were given paid preparation time to develop challenging and interesting lesson plans, funding for educational materials, and additional support from a parent-teacher organization. She has been employing credentialed teachers, most of them women, for almost 40 years. Jan was a proponent of flexible work schedules, allowing for part-time employment while employees finished their education. She also supported her employees’ use of the childcare facility for their own children in support of a positive work-life balance.

Jan has been at the forefront of anti-bias education throughout her career. She formed an early connection with Mukogawa’s Japanese school, where children exchanged dolls with students, learned some Japanese, and performed music together. Also, Mukogawa students from Japan did internships at North Wall Schools. The school also works internationally with a non-profit dedicated to the education of rural children in Guatemala. In the early 1990s, when the school was expanding from K-3rd grade to 6th grade and replacing its literacy program, Jan noticed an obvious bias in what the publishing companies had to offer: the books had no or very few pictures or stories of children of color. She pressed the educational bookmakers to produce anti-biased literature. She and the other teachers sought out and found materials that better reflected the history and culture of North America.

Jan has spent her career becoming a pioneer in the field of Early Childhood Education in Spokane and an advocate for showing respect to children.  She initiated classes for staff, parents, and college students in Positive Discipline.  Jan modeled and expected each staff member to model positive discipline with children. The school was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of speaking to children with the same respect and affirmative language as we expect to be spoken to as adults and seeing children cooperate and participate in respecting themselves, others and the environment because of choice rather than threats or intimidation. Eliminating the words,”no” and “don’t”, was a challenge for all in the early 80s when spanking was still popular in many homes and some other private programs. Her education in psychology taught her that understanding early brain development and appropriate attention to children are critical to their later success in learning. Her multi-age learn-at-your-own-pace approach has produced an array of successful graduates: doctors, lawyers, professors, inventors, software developers and marketers, writers, business owners, crane operators and even a space researcher. At YWCA Spokane, it is our honor to celebrate Jan Swanson and her outstanding achievements as our 2020 Women of Achievement Education award recipient.


A two month celebration of those who live out YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

This campaign will honor our 2020 Women of Achievement award winners and invite the community to take YWCA’s Learn & Give challenge focused on inspiring change during Domestic Violence Action Month.

September 1st through October 31st, 2020, YWCA’s ONE MISSION campaign will serve to celebrate women leaders in our community, raise awareness about the compounded experiences of domestic violence survivors, and look to raise $275,000. Proceeds raised support YWCA Spokane’s services for domestic violence victims and their children, including emergency shelter, counseling, legal services, job readiness, child care, and Pre-K programs for low income children and their families.

Please join us as we celebrate Jan and the other 2020 award honorees through this new campaign. 

Learn More

Donate in Honor of Our Women of Achievement Award Honorees

Consider making a donation in honor of the outstanding women we acknowledge at this inspiring celebration. As our biggest, most critical fundraiser of the year, the Women of Achievement Awards benefit our programs and services directly, allowing our reach to grow further and our mission to be realized. Simply put, we cannot do this work without you!


About YWCA Spokane

For 117 years, YWCA Spokane has been helping women and children overcome social, economic, and personal barriers in order to accomplish their goals and achieve healthier and more fulfilling lives. Today, areas of focus include supporting victims of intimate partner domestic violence, promoting early childhood education, and confronting racial and social justice issues that negatively impact our clients and our community.

In 2019, YWCA served over 17,000 women, children, and families. Services include a continuum of wrap-around support: 24-hour Helpline and Safe Shelter, Counseling Center, Mental Health Services, Child Advocacy, Civil Legal Assistance, Legal Advocacy, and Economic Empowerment Advocacy. YWCA’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) provides 3- and 4-year-old children with the social and learning skills necessary for successful entry into kindergarten.

By working at the intersections of inequality, poverty, and domestic violence, YWCA Spokane is able to disrupt longstanding societal patterns of trauma. To learn more, take a look at our 2019 annual impact report.


This awards celebration would not be possible without the incredible support of our 2020 sponsors. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at danam@ywcaspokane.org or call 509-742-0111.




2020 Mission Partner


Innovation SPONSOR






Corporate Sponsors

Columbia Bank

Global Credit Union

The Spokesman-Review

To learn more about sponsorship opportunities contact Dana Morris Lee, YWCA Spokane Chief Philanthropy Officer, at danam@ywcaspokane.org or call 509-742-0111.