Lauren Cormier, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Lyman Moore Middle School, has been awarded the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. She was selected for that “Teacher of the Year” honor by both the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Deering Memorial Post and District 10.
“The local post as well as the district chose her for her commitment to teaching students about United States history and the importance of civic responsibility and service,” according to Lyman Moore Assistant Principal Jake Giessman.
Cormier received $100 from the local post and $100 from District 10. She plans to donate the money to students who need scholarships to attend the school’s annual trip to the Freedom Trail in Boston, Giessman said. Each year, Cormier organizes that school trip to sites that featured prominently in the American Revolution.
Here’s how Giessman and other colleagues described Cormier in nominating her for the honor:
“Lauren Cormier, a 34-year veteran of Lyman Moore Middle School, embraces the special challenge of teaching U.S. history and instilling national pride in a building where the student population speaks 35 languages and is 30 percent first- or second-generation Americans, mostly from refugee backgrounds. Our families are a dynamic mix of longtime Mainers, transplants from other states, and families fleeing war and oppression. Citizenship and civic responsibility are at the forefront of many of our conversations, and our students even host a federal naturalization ceremony at our building each year.
As is appropriate for this kind of student body, Ms. Cormier teaches U.S. history with a mix of traditional and innovative methods. Students memorize portions of founding documents and are required at regular intervals to give university-style oral defenses of their historical knowledge. To earn an A, they are required to complete individualized, in-depth explorations of historical topics. In each election year, students hold a mock election. Ms. Cormier’s students also study history in person. Each year, she organizes a grade-wide trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail. As a chaperone, I was impressed by how much background knowledge the students shared at each stop along the way. How many 13-year-olds are thrilled to debate with a park ranger the logic behind tactics used at Bunker Hill? Her students also do a walking scavenger hunt around historic Portland.
A final note: We live in politically polarized times. Even in Portland, we see two loudly competing versions of what it means to be a democratic, patriotic society. Ms. Cormier guides students toward the common ideals that all Americans can share: pride in tradition, service to community, and commitment to make a strong future. Whether a student is a 10th-generation Mainer or just escaped another continent after her parents were murdered, when students take Ms. Cormier’s class, they learn American values that everybody would recognize as noble and high.”
At a recent ceremony at which VFW officials presented Cormier with the award and a cake, she got to help use an enlisted soldier's sword to cut the cake.