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Two Ashland teachers advance in VFW contest

Two Ashland teachers will represent Oregon as the Veterans of Foreign War’s Elementary and High School Teachers of the Year in the organization’s national contest.

Lindsay Gates, a third-grade teacher at Bellview Elementary, and Paul Huard, a humanities teacher at Ashland High School, will now compete for the contest’s national prize, which includes $1,000 of professional development, $1,000 awarded to the school, and an all-expenses-paid trip to a VFW conference to receive the award.

Teachers are nominated and selected for implementing curriculum that focuses on “citizenship education topics,” according to the contest’s information page.

Major Frank Sobotka, the quartermaster for VFW’s District 7, which encompasses Southern Oregon, nominated both teachers. After learning a bit about each through personal experience and a suggestion from his daughter, Sobotka gathered more information through interviews with students and staff about them.

“(Huard) has (students) reading primary documents, secondary documents, role playing,” Sobotka said. “He does a lot in his own education to further the education of students.”

Gates, he said, incorporates education about veterans and military holidays in her classroom time. That includes bringing in local government leaders and teaching patriotic songs, he said.

VFW also sponsors contests for students, including the Voice of Democracy at the high school level and the Patriot Pen essay contest for middle-schoolers. The grand prize for the Voice of Democracy contest is a $30,000 college scholarship.

Teacher Lindsay Gates leads a field trip to learn the art of geocaching. Tidings file photo
Paul Huard