ST. GEORGE — Two members of local Veterans of Foreign Wars posts presented an award to a St. George Academy teacher Tuesday morning.
The VFW awards teachers at the local, state and national levels yearly, honoring those teachers who are working to instill a sense of national pride in students.
This year, Joan Cartmill, an eighth grade social studies instructor at St. George Academy, received the Utah Smart/Maher Nation VFW Citizenship Education Teacher Award for the middle school level after winning at the local VFW Post, Region 5 and state levels.
The award was presented to Cartmill during the students’ lunch hour by the flag pole at St. George Academy. One of the presenters, Thearon Crosby, commander of the VFW District 5 in Southern Utah, told St. George News that while the competition had been very tight, Cartmill stood out.
“She had been reaching out with her students, visiting different organizations, giving them a feel for what our organizations do and then took her students to … Washington, D.C.,” he said. “That was far and above anything that we had seen any other teachers doing inside their schools.”
In a letter of nomination written by Dr. Joel Lewis, chair of social and behavioral sciences, he said during the trip to Washington, D.C., in which Cartmill took 12 students, they had the opportunity to meet Sen. Mitt Romney and have a discussion with him about opportunities for youth.
“She is deeply passionate in facilitating unique experiences that foster great feelings of loyalty and devotion to our nation,” Lewis said.
Cartmill told St. George News this trip had been inspired by a man she knew in North Dakota who had been taking students on trips to Washington, D.C. for a couple of decades.
“Knowing his work with the Close-up Program, I knew I wanted to do that someday in my own classroom,” Cartmill said.
The Close-up Program works with civic education, in which students learn about the monuments, the process in the District of Columbia and have the opportunity to meet senators and representatives and have real-life experiences.
Cartmill also teaches a course called Current Political Events at the academy, which discusses events happening across the globe in order to show students why civics education should be important in their lives. She said even if they aren’t yet old enough to vote, what’s happening right now will affect them in the long run.
“Being a teacher is the opportunity to influence students in their love of learning, not to necessarily think the same way I think, but to have them learn how to think and evaluate and become productive individuals,” she said. “So they’re not just being influenced by whatever fad or thing that they might see on Instagram or Reddit or TikTok.”
Kenneth Omer, a commander of the VFW Post 2628, told St. George News she also brought students to their post to listen to veterans’ stories.
“Joan introduced her students and then told us about her classes and her emphasis on the constitution, on U.S. government and also told us about her upcoming trip to Washington, D.C.,” Omer said. “And then the students asked if we could tell them some of our military experiences. They were very kind and patient and maybe eight of our post members told something about their military experience.”
St. George Academy Director Christy Hall told St. George News she was ecstatic about Cartmill winning the award.
“Our teachers work really hard here and are dedicated to student achievement. It’s amazing that we have a teacher so dedicated to qualify her for this award,” Hall said. “Mrs. Cartmill is really active in recruiting students into social science experiences.”
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