Cove teachers, student capture district VFW honors, advance to state

Special to Leader-Press

It won’t be completely unfamiliar territory this Saturday in Belton, although the stakes have gotten higher for two Copperas Cove ISD teacher and high school student.  
Crossroads High School teacher Mandi Stai and House Creek Elementary teacher Amy Gallen will be honored this Saturday, Jan. 20, in Belton as the District 14 VFW Secondary and Elementary Teachers of the Year, respectively, while CCHS student Dimas Bonet will receive first place in the District 14 Voice of Democracy Contest.  All three winners will advance to the state competition in Austin later this month.
Stai has been selected at both the local and district level for the VFW honors for her work in developing special projects for a group of her students who were exceptionally driven to study history. Projects include award-winning works of art and inter-generational assignments with local nursing homes where students interview local veterans, developing biographies and compiling them into published books. 
“Ms. Stai ensures her students are prepared to handle the challenges of the real world by helping them as they research and register for college, selective service and to vote,” said Crossroads High School Principal James Irick. 
Gallen hosts the House Creek Elementary Veterans Day Parade annually. As the music teacher, she prepares patriotic songs and prepares a special concert to honor veterans. She and her students perform at nursing homes and other community events. 
“Amy Gallen models citizenship and embeds social skills lessons on how to be a good citizen into her daily interactions with students and staff,” said Principal Larea Gamble.
The VFW Teacher of the Year award contest recognizes exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Each year, a classroom elementary, junior high and high school teacher whose curriculum focuses on citizenship education topics — for at least half of the school day in a classroom environment — can be nominated for the award.  
Bonet is excited about his opportunity to advance to the state contest with his award-winning essay based on this year’s theme, American History: Our Hope for the Future. He was required to both write and provide an audio-recording of the essay.
The theme is selected nationally by the VFW as approximately 40,000 of students from across the country pen an essay on the same topic. Since 1947, the Voice of Democracy has been the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ top scholarship program awarding more than $2 million in scholarships and prizes.   
The district ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will be held at VFW Post 4008 located on 2311 S. Pearl Street in Belton.

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