December 19, 2012 - With all the emphasis on globalism in public education these days, it seems like the concept of patriotism can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Oxford Middle School Choir Director Jan Flynn (center) received a “Teacher of the Year” award from North Oakland VFW Post 334, represented by Post Commander Jim Hubbard and his wife, Kathy Hubbard. (click for larger version)
But thanks to dedicated teachers like Jan Flynn and all the talented students who entered the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) essay and speech contests, patriotism is definitely alive, well and growing in the Oxford school district.
Last week, Flynn, who's the choir director for Oxford Middle School, received a local Teacher of the Year Award from North Oakland VFW Post 334. It's part of the part of the VFW's National Citizenship Education Teacher Award program. Flynn will now go on to compete at the VFW's district level.
The plaque stated that Flynn was recognized "for encouraging your students to learn, understand and appreciate the service and sacrifices made by our veterans on behalf of our country to ensure the freedoms that we all enjoy each day."
For 10 years now, Flynn has voluntarily organized the Americana Concert at OMS around Veterans Day. This wildly popular event, which was her idea to begin with, regularly consists of patriotic songs performed by OMS choir students, inspiring speeches, moving photo montages and the participation of local veterans. This year's concert even featured a live Bald Eagle.
Flynn was touched by the VFW award.
"This is such an honor," she said. "It's such an honor that (the veterans) took the time to nominate me. They are, in my estimation, our national treasures and I really appreciate their service and sacrifice. I try to express that to my students, so they, too, have a sense of appreciation."
Flynn was nominated for the award by Pat Bliss, who's president of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 108 and has been an Oxford school bus driver for nearly 45 years.
"I think Jan's a very deserving person (because of) all the things that she does for the veterans and the students," Bliss said. "She tries to educate them about the military and help them understand what (it's) done for us."
Jim Hubbard, a Vietnam war hero and commander of VFW Post 334, was excited to finally be able to present a local teacher with this coveted award.
"To be honest with you, it's very hard to get teachers to nominate teachers," he said. "Every year, the VFW wants to nominate a Teacher of the Year, but for some reason, it's one of the most difficult things to do. But this year, we were fortunate enough to have one. It makes me very happy to have her win (for) our post."
Hubbard said Flynn "does such a phenomenal job, how could you not want to honor her?"
According to Kathy Hubbard, who served as cochair for the VFW's Patriot's Pen essay contest and Voice of Democracy speech/essay contest, Flynn was personally responsible for getting 187 OMS students to enter the Patriot's Pen competition this year.
"That's why we have so many Oxford (winners)," she said.
The Patriot's Pen is a program open to all sixth-through-eighth-grade students. This year, participating students wrote essays – 300 to 400 words in length – on the theme "What I Would Tell America's Founding Fathers."
The Voice of Democracy is open to students in grades 9-12 and it involves creating both written and audio versions of an essay. This year's topic was "Is Our Constitution Still Relevant?"
Combined, the two contests generated more than 500 entries for VFW Post 334, which was a significant increase considering last year, it received only 42, Kathy Hubbard said.
OMS students did extremely well in the Patriot's Pen competition.
First place awards went to sixth-grader Chloe Allen, seventh-grader Paris DeForest and eighth-grader Katie Comparoni.
Second place awards were received by sixth-grader Amelia Ferguson, seventh-grader Sydney Gilles and eighth-grader Kohli Johnson.
Finishing in third place were sixth-grader Silvana Tenaglia and seventh-grader Emily Garcia. McKenna Carron was third-place winner for the eighth grade and she attends St. Joseph's Catholic school in Lake Orion.
Patriot's Pen winners from Lake Orion Schools included eighth-graders Michelle Boden and Klara Pokezywa, both of whom had first place finishes, and Katelyn Spearing and Casey Ketelhut, who both received honorable mentions. Winning first place in the Voice of Democracy contest was Lake Orion High School student Kirk Hansen.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.