Story and photo by Karl Weisel
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden Public Affairs Office
The spotlight shone on teachers in all four Wiesbaden schools May 6-10. Students, parents, administrators and local leaders gathered to thank educators for their vital role in inspiring young minds and helping guide future citizens.
At luncheons and other events, teachers gathered to garner recognition for their efforts and to celebrate their accomplishments.
“All of the schools are doing something special for teachers’ appreciation throughout the week,” said Peter Witmer, U.S. Army Garrison school liaison officer.
Among the highlights of the week was recognition of the Veteran of Foreign Wars’ Teacher of the Year for Europe. Jim Mann, incoming commander of VFW’s Post 27, joined Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, U.S. Army Europe commander, and Col. David Carstens, USAG Wiesbaden commander, in honoring Hainerberg Elementary School kindergarten teacher Crystal Simpson.
“Every year the VFW has scholarship and patriotism recognition programs,” said Mann, explaining that the VFW’s Teacher of the Year award acknowledges the efforts by an educator in encouraging citizenship and patriotism.
After being nominated by students and parents, Simpson advanced to the district level competition and then to the state level, Mann said, to be recognized as the VFW’s Department of Europe winner.
The Hainerberg teacher’s dedicated efforts in encouraging students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day and to support Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan with care packages and letters were aspects of her role as a teacher that impressed the VFW judges, Mann said.
“I was in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps where I met my husband who is now a Soldier,” said Simpson who will mark the end of her first year of teaching for DoDDS at the end of the current school year.
“We shouldn’t just be teaching children the facts, but we also must share a love of learning,” Simpson said, adding that getting her kindergartners to enjoy standing up to say the pledge each day is her way of encouraging future citizenship. “If you love America, you should act on it.”
During the same ceremony all of the school’s teachers were recognized with teacher pins and complimentary bowling vouchers courtesy of the school’s Parent, Teacher Organization.
“By the time your students graduate from high school, they will have spent thousands of hours at school being instructed by numerous teachers,” said Trish Benz, Hainerberg PTO president. “That’s why almost everyone has a story about a teacher who has touched his or her life. … Just like so many politicians, artists, astronauts, Soldiers, entrepreneurs and surgeons, we are who we are today partly because of a great teacher.”
“They live the Army value of selfless service every day,” said Penelope Miller-Smith, Hainerberg Elementary’s principal, adding that few other professions touch as many people’s lives as teachers do every day.
“You motivate and truly inspire,” added USAREUR’s commander, saying that teachers also help “strengthen democracy.
“I want to thank all of you for everything you do … You all represent the best of the best. … You are true heroes,” Campbell added.