Sterling, VA (Nov. 12, 2015) – Matthew Poth, a social science teacher at Park View High School, is one of 18 middle and high school educators selected by National History Day (NHD) to participate in Understanding Sacrifice, a highly competitive, year-long professional development program sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).
During this program educators learn about America’s involvement during World War II in the Mediterranean region. To drive home a deeper understanding of the personal sacrifice experienced on the front lines, each teacher will select one American service member who is buried or memorialized at an ABMC cemetery in Southern Europe or North Africa. Participants then spend a year conducting in-depth research on the life of this fallen hero using both local and archival historical resources. Throughout the program, teachers attend lectures, study historical books about the conflict and collaborate with staff at National History Day to begin forming ideas for lesson plans from their experience. The program pays for European travel, supplies, courses, and much more. Teachers are only responsible for travel to and from Washington, D.C., passport fees and any personal expenses.
Poth has a deeper connection to war than most. As a member of the Marine Corps, he served in Iraq and saw firsthand the challenges and sacrifices of war. It was during this time that he became fascinated with World War II history. In his application he writes that he was sent a book about the Battle of Bastogne and that “By the time I had finished the book, I was begging my parents to send me every book about World War II that they could get their hands on.” He goes on to write that he believes students “need to learn more than just the facts; they need to learn the impact that events had, and still have, on the everyday person.” Through this program, Poth’s research will uncover the story of a fallen hero, an everyday person, called on to serve his country. He can then use this story of bravery to better educate his students on the sacrifices made in World War II.
Each participant presents a eulogy at the grave or memorial of a service member from their home state. Upon returning home, the teachers use their research and experience to create a lesson plan to reinvigorate World War II education in American classrooms. The created lesson plans will be made available to teachers worldwide through a website created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.