VFW Post 8577 recognizes student, teacher award winners
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The VFW Post 8577 in Copperas Cove held a recognition ceremony and lunch for the recipients of this year’s Patriot’s Pen Scholarship, Voice of Democracy Scholarship and the VFW Teacher of the Year Awards Saturday afternoon.
The three teachers of the Teacher of the Year competition were Martin Walker Elementary School kindergarten teacher Candice Bowers, as the Elementary Teacher of the Year; Copperas Cove Junior High Teacher Haley McFarland as the VFW Middle School Teacher of the Year; and Copperas Cove High School teacher Vanessa Wheat as the VFW High School Teacher of the Year.
The Patriot’s Pen Contest winner was S. C. Lee Junior High student Chloe Sanchez. The Voice of Democracy Contest winner was Copperas Cove High School senior Arielle Dane.
Vanessa Wheat said she didn’t know she had been nominated, but she was so honored.
“I think it’s amazing,” Wheat said. “Teachers- they don’t get a lot of recognition, and I really think it’s amazing that the VFW takes time out of their day working with the vets to honor a teacher.”
Junior Vice Commander Lisa Hunter was this year’s chairperson for the contests.
She said that it is important to hold these contests every year to recognize the teachers and students.
“The teachers teach the students, and the students are our future,” Hunter said. “We feel that we need to put more into the education in this country.”
For the students, earning the scholarship money and rewarding them for their effort serves as encouragement for them to pursue other goals, Hunter said. For the teachers, the award money is a token of appreciation and recognition for the hard work they do.
Each student won $200, and each first-place teacher won $250.
CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns said he was grateful for the VFW.
“What a wonderful relationship we’ve endured with Post 8577 over the years and thank you for the opportunity to recognize the best of the best of our classroom teachers who work hard each and every day making sure our students get an excellent opportunity for education and then also for recognizing our students who participated in the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen,” Burns said. “What an honor for these young people to participate in a competition where they can earn scholarship money and that keeps building and building and building all the way through competition.”
Many of teachers and students have gone on to compete and earn significant earnings, Burns added.
This year, the Elementary School Teacher of the Year Candace Bowers won District and will go on to compete at the State Level. Bowers teaches Kindergarten at Martin Walker Elementary and is a military veteran.
Bowers shared a brief statement after accepting her award.
“I find joy in getting to teach my little babies everyday respect, citizenship and patriotism,” Bowers said. “There are so many others that deserve this award, so it is with great honor to receive it.”
CCHS Senior Arielle Dane was the only student winner at the ceremony.
Her mother, Monica, was present and able to pin the medal to her shirt during the ceremony. She said she was so very proud of her daughter.
“I had to put a lot of time and effort into it. I really wanted to convey what I was feeling and what I thought about the subject,” Dane said. “The prompt was whether the founding fathers would be proud of what America was today. I wrote how things have changed a lot since back then, and I don’t know if they would be able to anticipate everything that would happen, but I don’t necessarily think they would not be proud of what America is today.”
After high school, Dane said she wants to go to Texas State University to major in a yet to be determined field of study.