A local Veterans of Foreign Wars post recognized three Jefferson City area teachers for their commitment to teaching their students about patriotism and American values.
The VFW holds a contest for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teach of the Year Award annually to recognize elementary, middle and high school teachers who teach American and patriotic values. Winners said they felt humbled by the honor. Now, each winner will move onto a district competition, and could move on to the national competition.
Ashley Angle, who's taught at Pioneer Trail Elementary School for five years and has been a teacher for 17 years, said she teaches simple patriotic things to her students, like to take their hats off during the Pledge of Allegiance.
"I love feeling the pride that I can instill in my students," Angle said. "The day that I got the award, I knew in my heart that I had done something right."
The VFW recognized Tom Emmel, who's taught American History for 28 year at Helias High School and been a teacher for 42 years, for his work on the Veterans History Project. Helias began working on the project with the Library of Congress on Veterans Day. The project consists of interviewing veterans with the goal of telling their stories to the general public.
Emmel said his father was stationed in Virginia during the Cold War. His wife's father served in Korea during the Korean War. Part of his upbringing centered around learning how veterans contributed to the country.
Many of his students, Emmel said, don't understand how many veterans gave of their time. The Veterans History Project allows students to learn about that sacrifice.
"You gave of your time. Whether it be just here in America or in a foreign land," Emmel said. "There's a lot of us teachers that would like to teach about this subject, and I'm just happy that I'm one of them who gets to."
Helias is contacting veterans who've signed up, and Emmel said his students want to begin interviewing as soon as possible. Veterans can sign up by contacting the school. For more information, visit heliascatholic.com.
Kelly Hoelscher, a social studdies teacher at Eugene Middle School, had her students write essays this fall for a project called "Why We Stand" that taught students about why Americans stand during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner." Holscher said she thought of the idea this fall as protests by NFL, and other athletes, around the country brought attention to racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
The essays asked students why they stood during the national anthem.
"They stand for our veterans," Hoelscher said. "They stand for those people that are serving our country today. They stand for those people that have served, and they stand for those people that are no longer here today."
Hoelscher said her students were happy for her when she received the award.
"I really have a wonderful group of students at Eugene," Hoelscher said. "I'm humbled."
Angle said she also felt honored to receive the award.
"I feel like it's civic duty to impart this wisdom to the younger kids, so they can grow up and be patriotic Americans," Angle said.
Each winner received a $250 check for winning the local competition and will move onto the district competition. From there, Angle, Emmel and Hoelscher could move onto the national competition.
Charlotte Dudenhoffer, a former teacher who helps organize the event, said what sets these teachers apart is they take the time and effort to teach kids about what it means to be an American, and veterans' role in America.
"That's our goal. Teaching kids about the history of our veterans," Dudenhoffer said. "These teachers take that extra little step and they bring in their own personal side of their family of veterans."