Prairie teacher honored with citizenship award
WORTHINGTON -- Third-grade teacher Tom Woods is not a veteran, but he has helped foster his students' appreciation for veterans old and young.
Woods, who has taught in District 518 for 17 years, was honored Thursday during Prairie Elementary's Veterans Day program, receiving the National Citizenship Teacher Post Recognition Award.
He was nominated by Roger Geertsema, the commander of VFW Post 3958 Volk Jansen in Worthington.
"Ever since I can remember, he's been dedicated to the veterans," Geertsema said. "And then I found out he's just as dedicated to the students. ... He is well-respected by his peers and the students, too."
Geertsma, who served in the Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said Woods is the first local teacher in recent memory to be honored with the award, given to those who promote citizenship education in their classroom and school.
Woods has invited local veterans to speak to his class on Veterans Day for many years.
"When they're eight and nine, they don't really understand what a veteran is," Woods explained. ""They relate so much to the Iraq War that I don't think they really understand that there's a lot of veterans out there who fought in other wars."
Vietnam medic Jim Hart is one of those veterans.
"One question they always ask would be 'Did you carry a gun?' 'What did you do?' 'Did you carry supplies with you?' ... Jim would explain as a medic what he would have to carry," Woods said. "We've stressed the importance of the pledge every morning. We talk about why they salute and why the hats are removed." He also has them reflect on the patriotic songs they sing every morning.
Woods is an auxiliary member of the local VFW and could represent Worthington in the competition for district and state awards.