WASHINGTON, D.C. — Shane Gower, teacher at Maranacook High School in Readfield, is one of 18 middle and high school educators selected by National History Day to participate in Understanding Sacrifice, a highly competitive, yearlong professional development program sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

During this program, educators learn about America’s involvement in the Mediterranean region during World War II. To drive home a deeper understanding of the personal sacrifice experienced at 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 and courses. Teachers are only responsible for travel to and from Washington, D.C., passport fees and any personal expenses.

Gower has experience visiting military cemeteries overseas. Maranacook Community High School participated in an exchange program with Lycee Maintenon in Hyeres, France. His students were even able to visit one of the American cemeteries of southern France. In his application, he remarked how this visit had an emotional impact on the students and how “real the experience of the war and the sacrifice made had become for them.”

He is driven to teach his students by experience as much as possible and believes this experience can help him better tailor his own lessons to give students an understanding of the ultimate sacrifice made by Americans in World War II.

Each participant presents a eulogy at the grave or memorial of a service member from their home states. Upon returning home, the teachers use their research and experiences 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.

“National History Day wants students to connect with the past and one of the primary points of contact with students is their teachers,” said Dr. Cathy Gorn, NHD executive director. “Given Mr. Gower’s emphasis on experience in teaching, I believe he will gain a great deal from this program and also be a benefit to the other teachers on this experiential journey.”

The lesson plans teachers develop will make use of the extensive educational and interpretive materials of the ABMC. The plans will also comply with Common Core standards and will be free to access online at www.ABMCeducation.org.

For more information on National History Day, visit www.nhd.org.

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