VFW awards ‘Teachers of the Year’

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

Annually, the Veterans of Foreign Wars throughout many counties in the United States of America, offer citizens and students the opportunity to recognize those teachers whom they feel have displayed excellence in teaching.

The local Craig Valley VFW Post 4491 has been participating in this special recognition and recently recognized three Teacher of the Year recipients for 2019 to Craig County: Wanda Reynolds (high school), Robert Moler (middle school) and Andrea Jennings (elementary).

The National VFW recognizes and honors the top elementary (K-5), junior high (6-8) and high school (9-12) educators who “teaches citizenship and education topics, and promotes America’s history, traditions and institutions. Attributes considered will be the scope of the teaching on both the students and the community.”

Post Commander Billy Lee presented each teacher with a certificate that read, “Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States – National Citizenship Education Teacher Post Recognition Award, presented to (each teacher) in recognition for promoting citizenship education in your classroom and school.”

Each teacher also received a check from the local VFW Post 4491 for $50. District winners received an additional $100 check from the District VFW. The District area includes Radford, Christiansburg, Roanoke, Salem, Craig and Lynchburg.

The nominee’s submission for Wanda Reynolds as the High School Teacher of the Year read: “Wanda Reynolds is a veteran teacher who has proven her ability to teach financial literacy to her students. She has taught other subjects and has been successful. She has led her students to perform outstanding on the state and national competency tests. Wanda is a team player with the school environment.”

Reynolds has been a teacher at Craig County Public Schools for 38 years. She said she was surprised when she learned that she won the award. “What I enjoy most about teaching is helping the kids succeed,” she said before adding, “I especially like the ‘ah-ha’ moment when they finally get something you have been working with them to understand or the ‘drudgery’ they say of being in the class that they think they didn’t like and then years later they come up to you and I am so glad that you made me do that. John Price still tells me that he is glad I made him type.” Reynolds also noted that she is now taught three generations.

Moler was awarded the Middle School Teacher of the Year. His submission letter included, “Moler is a veteran teacher who has had success teaching middle school science for many years. He has consistently had success in having students score well on state competency tests. He is a quiet professional who is a team player for his school community. He has coached and sponsored many extracurricular activities with the focus on student success.”

Moler shared that he didn’t expect it and that it was very nice to be recognized. “I just like working with the middle schoolers even though they can be hard to deal with at that age. It is a challenge, and I’m ok with it,” he said. “I like seeing them later in life when they have done well. Now I am teaching my former student’s children.”

Moler also was awarded a District Middle School Teacher of the Year Award.

The Local Elementary Teacher of the Year Award was Andrea Jennings who also won district.

“Wow, thank you,” she said when Commander Lee presented her the District check.

Jennings had stepped out of her class to receive the District award. It was the last day of classes before Christmas break. “This makes getting through the day a little easier,” she said with a smile. “I really do appreciate this and was truly surprised.”

Part of the submission for Jennings read: “Andrea graduated from Radford University in 1989, with a double major in education. She taught kindergarten at a private school in Northern Virginia. She moved to Craig in 1990 where she started teaching at McCleary Elementary School. She taught kindergarten for 13 years, second grade for seven years and has been teaching third grade for the past ten years.

Andrea has the pledge of allegiance in her class every morning. She also teaches her students about government and what a representative republic and democracy means, the three branches and basic American principles. She teaches them what makes America special. She decorates her room for Veterans Day and Memorial Day and puts a huge focus on them.

Andrea is married to Bill Jennings, a former Army Ranger who is now a State Trooper. She has two sons, Matt and Nate Jennings, who joined the United States Marines and are both now police officers. Matt in Roanoke County and Nate in Christiansburg.

Andrea says one of her most satisfying accomplishments is working with teachers that she taught as students.

Lee shared, “We are happy to have such good teachers for our kids here in Craig. It is our privilege to honor them.”

The way the awards work is based on the nominees submitted as the VFW local Posts choose and recognize one outstanding teacher in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Posts then submit their winning names and required documents to their District-level judging.

From there, the selected winners and required documents are forwarded to the state-level where they are judged and those winners are forwarded to VFW National Headquarters for consideration in the national awards contest.

Teachers who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism are prime candidates for the award.

For the 2020 awards, if you know a teacher who plans field trips to city hall, organizes community volunteer projects or invites local veterans to speak in class, anything to help students develop a better understanding of democratic values and beliefs, this award is for them.

  • Step 1: In 350 words or less, describe why you feel your nominee is deserving of the award. Be sure to describe the teacher’s innovative teaching and resource development methods, as well as his or her dedication to education.
  • Step 2: Download and complete the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award nomination form.
  • Step 3: Submit the nomination form along with your explanation to your local VFW Post by Oct. 31.

The local VFW chapter encourages the community to become involved in this great opportunity to award teachers who sacrifice so much to teach the kids of Craig.

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