CCISD sweeps VFW District Teacher of the Year contest

Special to Leader-Press
Entries poured in from 12 different VFW posts in 10 cities from Temple in the east, Gatesville on the north, Lampasas to the west and Marble Falls in the south. Only three would rise to the top representing their school districts at the elementary, junior high and high school level. This year, all three District 14 VFW Teachers of the Year are from Copperas Cove ISD.
Williams/Ledger Elementary music teacher Paul Warren captured Teacher of the Year for grades Pre-K-6 with Catherine Sharbeno from Copperas Cove Junior High capturing the middle school Teacher of the Year honor and Carol Hawkins representing Copperas Cove High School was named the District 14 VFW Teacher of the Year.
“As a proud former soldier turned teacher, I feel a strong desire to share with children how great our country is and how our greatness came to be. While teaching U.S. history for five years, I took great pleasure in making history come alive through class activities and the sharing of personal experience,” Warren said. “Now as a music teacher, I continue to teach students about cultures and traditions using songs and musical presentations. Knowledge and information have always been passed from generation to generation through story and song and I have been fortunate to be in teaching positions that allow me to carry on that tradition. Being recognized by the VFW for doing so reaffirms my belief that it is vitally important for young Americans to have an understanding of the people and events that helped make their country what it is today.”
VFW District 14 Chairman Tom DuChateau said the VFW wants to identify and recognize those exceptional teachers who instill a sense of national pride in their students.
“In our selection process, we were looking for candidates who promote patriotism and civil responsibilities within their classrooms. (We) had a lot of outstanding entries and judging at the district level was very challenging to say the least,” he said. “What gave the teachers from Copperas Cove ISD the edge was the submission of their entries. Each applicant submitted a very impressive package which included documentation of their teaching experience along with references and news articles.”
Hawkins said to win VFW Teacher of the Year at the district level is a tremendous honor.
“Each day as I work with students and staff, I try to instill and encompass the understanding of what are our rights and what freedom means in our lives,” she said. “In addition to the daily pledging of the flag and sharing a minute of silence, to me patriotism means never forgetting what others have done to ensure our freedom, never taking our freedom for granted and always living our lives as role models for younger generations.”
Chuck Downard, contest chairman of local VFW Post #8577, was not surprised with the outcome of the district competition.
“CCISD winning all three teacher groups is a reflection of not only having some great teachers in our community but a coordinated effort between our local VFW and the school system to honor those teachers,” Downard said. “It’s the first time in my six-plus years being involved that we have taken all three awards for teachers.”
Department of Texas District 14 is ranked as the third largest in the state of Texas. Sharbeno was nominated by a fellow educator for the local honor before advancing to the state level.
“We live next to one of the largest military installations in the world, so it is very important to instill patriotism in our students. Many of our students are military children, just like me, and we know what it is like to live in another country besides the United States,” Sharbeno said. “We look to each other for inspiration on ways to share how fortunate we are to live in such a diverse country and how important it is to celebrate all the freedoms we have. Many of our students have patriotism instilled in them already. As educators, we just need to encourage our students to display it.”
All district winners of the Voice of Democracy, Patriot’s Pen and Teacher of the Year will advance to the Department level which is equivalent to the state.
“We’ve haven’t had a teacher win at the department level during my tenure as the District 14 VOD Chairperson,” DuChateau said. “I feel very confident with all three exceptional candidates advancing to the state competition.”

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