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story.lead_photo.caption In the foreground is the POW/MIA table behind which Colonel (Retired) John W. Clark, speaks to Friday's gathering at the annual Blair Oaks Veterans Day program in the high school gymnasium. Two Blair Oaks R-2 school district teachers, Kelsey Luebbert and Jason Wise, were awarded the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award for 2019 at the program. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Three Jefferson City area teachers have been recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Basinger/Sone Memorial Post 1003 as outstanding educators of citizenship.

Post 1003 in Jefferson City awarded two teachers from the Blair Oaks R-2 school district and a third teacher from Jefferson City High School as local winners of the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award for 2019:

Kelsey Luebbert, third grade teacher at Blair Oaks Elementary School

Jason Wise, sixth and eighth grade social studies teacher at Blair Oaks Middle School

Elizabeth Hood, social studies teacher at JCHS

Luebbert was nominated by Linda Eisinger, of Jefferson City. Eisinger's nomination describes the readings and activities Luebbert leads her students in.

Eisinger wrote Luebbert reads "American White Table" every Veterans Day and said "A white table is set in many mess halls as a symbol of remembrance to service members fallen, missing or held captive in the line of duty. Solitary and solemn, it's the table where no one will ever sit. Kelsey puts a small table in her room covered with a white tablecloth. This represents the soldier's battle and pure heart. A slice of lemon (captive soldiers), salt (tears) and white candle (peace) are placed on the table. Then, an empty chair is placed at the table for the missing soldier. A student places a black napkin (sorrow) and a turned over glass (uneaten meal) on the table, finally placing the red rose for hope of a safe return."

Eisinger added Luebbert also reads "The Wall" — a book about "a little boy and his dad visiting the Vietnam Memorial and they find the grandfather's name on the wall. The grandfather was killed in action. Students then write letters of appreciation to our veterans."

Luebbert's students also write the names of veterans in their lives on red, white and blue stars that are hung in the hallway outside her classroom with the words "Wall of Heroes" — "Students make their own dog tags to learn about the different branches of the military."

"By doing these activities, Kelsey keeps the importance of our veterans in perspective. She plants the seed of citizenship, service and respect for country in the minds of youth," Eisinger said.

Wise was nominated by Blair Oaks Middle School Principal Kimberley Rodriguez.

Rodriguez wrote that Wise "doesn't just 'teach' (his students); he instills the love of learning and history within his lessons and interactions You will find Mr. Wise modeling civic responsibility and patriotism across every situation. He's willing to have some of those tough conversations and use real-world examples to help reinforce learning."

She added Wise "knows how to help kids listen to history in a way that each of their minds understands it He's a silent leader with no desire for recognition," and he serves as the school's student council sponsor.

JCHS Assistant Principal Shanna Schwarzer nominated Hood "because she not only teaches a valuable course (government, to seniors, a graduation requirement), but because she does so in a way that helps students engage in their lessons. Hood uses a lot of technology integration to engage students and asks the students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways."

Schwarzer added Hood also is one of three student council sponsors, and the government course curriculum requires Hood and her team of five other teachers "to teach the students the foundation of our government and the history behind that government. This includes teaching the students the components that the VFW cares about. They learn the history, traditions, civic responsibilities and about patriotism."

All K-12 teachers working at least half of the school day in a classroom are eligible for the award, and nominations can be submitted by fellow teachers, supervisors or other individuals who are not family. Information from the VFW stated teachers "who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism are prime candidates for this award."

VFW local chapters recognize one teacher in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

Winners of the award at the post level are entered into district level competition. Eventual winners on the national level receive $1,000 award for professional development expenses, $1,000 for their school, plaques, an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the VFW National Convention, and an invitation for the top 10 high school teachers to attend a summer graduate seminar at Freedoms Foundation in Pennsylvania — a nonprofit founded with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower that has a mission to "educate about American rights and responsibilities, honor acts of civic virtue and challenge all to reject apathy and get involved."