Many of our schools this year will be closed in the week leading up to Veterans Day. There are many ways to honor our veterans throughout the school year, but most especially in the weeks leading up to November 11, 2018.

The first tip for putting together a meaningful program for your students is identifying veterans within your own school community. It means a great deal to the teachers and educational support professionals to feel acknowledged and appreciated.

If you do not have any, the next step is getting in contact with your local Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW), American Legion, or AMVETS (American Veterans). These organizations will be able to provide you with ideas for honoring the military in your school, and will be able to pass on your invitation to veterans wishing to attend your program.

Here is a sampling of programs you can use in your school:

• Host a Veterans Day Dinner at the school.

• Host a veteran at your school for an assembly. This can be a big school wide assembly or you could have a few come into the single classrooms.

• Send thank you cards to the local Veterans Administration Hospital, Clinic, or Outpatient Treatment Center. Simple thank you cards might mean a lot to veterans visiting these institutions. They should be addressed unnamed, and signed without personal details such as last names and personal addresses. For some veterans, they would appreciate kind words.

• Participate in the town Veterans Day Parade. As numbers of veterans who are able to march is in decline, they are always looking to have students participate and add to the event. Students can create a banner to march with, write a poem to read at the end point, or again hand out simple thank you cards. Contact the local VFW and or mayor’s office to set up.

• Let students know that animals are veterans too. Bring in resources from the NJVVMF to teach about War Dogs and other animals that served in war. This is a great way to bring STEM themes into the celebration of our veterans. The Headquarters of the US War Dog Association is in NJ.

• Short on time? The History Channel has a wealth of short videos that can be used in class to supplement a discussion.

Most of our Korean War and Vietnam War Veterans are grandparents so do not be afraid that they might not be “suitable” for younger children. You can work with them to discuss themes of patriotism, love of country, and civic issues. Unfortunately, history has not been kind to these two generations of veterans, and they should be celebrated as models of our democracy.

Pride funds, if applied for and approved in advance, can be utilized in creating a special program for honoring our veterans. Don’t forget to thank any special guests that visit your school. Pride funds can be used to purchase gifts for your speakers. In my school, we traditionally give one of our school’s t-shirts and make them “Honorary Bengals.” The smallest gesture is appreciated.

Nominate any fellow NJEA member who has served in the military to receive a special certificate of appreciation. Email the veteran’s name and local association to Meredith Barnes at mbarnes@njea.org and a certificate will be mailed to him or her. Or, if you prefer to present the certificate in person at an association meeting, Veterans Day Assembly or other event, please indicate that in your email and include your preferred mailing address.

NJEA members who have served in our military are invited to breakfast at the NJEA Convention on Thursday morning, November 9, in honor of Veterans Day. Please RSVP now at www.njea.org/patriots to hold your spot.

Submitted by Bloomfield Education Association member Keri Giannotti. Keri is a high school history and government teacher, and is also the museum educator at the Vietnam War Wall Memorial and Foundation. Keri also serves as Co-Creator of the NJEA Patriots Alliance, a coalition of NJEA members who have served in the military. To contact Keri with your questions, please email her at kagiannotti@gmail.com.

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