DES MOINES – An Iowa teacher has embarked on a project of a lifetime.
Suzan Turner of Nashua-Plainfield Community Schools is one of eight teachers in the country selected by the National History Day program this year to memorialize a local World War II fallen hero who never made it home and help invigorate teaching in American classrooms.
Turner’s subject, Harvey Eugene Wilson Jr. of Nashua, is buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery in Europe. She has already traveled to Washington, D.C., to begin her research and will document his life over the next nine months before traveling to Europe next June to continue her studies. Some of the teachers will visit the East Coast Memorial in New York’s Battery Park, Suresnes American Cemetery, Brittany American Cemetery, and Luxembourg American Cemetery. Along the way, they will deliver eulogies to their fallen heroes at respective burial or memorial sites.
Turner received a head start on her research this fall when Wilson’s family gave her a treasure trove of documents and ephemera, including letters from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. Army and the U.S. government announcing Wilson had been killed in action, plus a box of photographs and other keepsakes from his childhood.
“To tell somebody’s story is a pretty big responsibility,” Turner said. “We’re memorializing the reality of war and the personal sacrifice individuals, families and communities made throughout the war, so I feel a real sense of responsibility to get it right for the family, the community and my students.”
The program, which is sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission, engages teachers with World War II research through primary and secondary sources, virtual lectures, and online discussions. This advanced professional development program also pays for all travel, courses and curriculum development materials.
All the activities support the development of a lesson plan and hero profile, which will be published on ABMCeducation.org in November 2019. ABMCeducation.org is a free online classroom resource that currently hosts 54 lesson plans and 58 profiles.
National History Day is a year-long academic enrichment program that challenges students to research, develop and present papers, exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances about historical issues, ideas, people and events related to an annual theme. Last year, more than half a million students around the world participated in the program, including about 8,000 Iowa students.
The National History Day in Iowa program is overseen by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. More information is available at iowaculture.gov.