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Chapel Hill Teacher of the Year (9-12)

Tom Stanfa

Tom Stanfa, English Honors teacher at Chapel Hill High School, was selected earlier this year as our Post’s nominee for Veterans of Foreign Wars National Teacher of the Year (grades 9-12).  He went on to win District 6 competition and in January won the North Carolina State Competition.  His nomination is now at VFW National competing against candidates from every state, plus VFW Europe, VFW Caribbean,  and VFW Pacific.  Learn more

Tom Stanfa is a quiet man who makes a huge difference where it counts; with our youth.  In a period where there is a race to complete assignments or to learn how to pass a test, he immerses his students in the books they read.  Selected class projects for reading are read to be understood, to be felt, and to come to life.  One such project was with the selection of The Bedford Boys: One Small Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice.

It was the tale of  a depression era  farming community of 3,200.  It told of young men who joined the National Guard to earn $1 a week for drill pay.  They banded together as a unit and met on Monday nights.  It was fun, but there were unintended consequences.  World War II broke out and, just like with Iraq and Afghanistan, local National Guard units were mobilized and sent to war.  On D-Day, on Omaha Beach, they all landed together, but 19 perished.  It was the largest loss by a town on a single day in the United States.  What was their story?  Who were these men?  Tom Stanfa’s kids found out.

Jerry Pilarski at memorial with Gracian and Squires

You can tell if a teacher is having a positive impact by the actions of the students away from their classroom.  One of  Tom’s students, Garcian D’Cruz, a 10th grader, stood out in our community doing a church youth project to benefit the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.  Gracian had visited the memorial on an earlier Chapel Hill High School field trip related to the study of  The Bedford Boys: One Small Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice. He was moved by the memorial and the World War II veterans he met.

He was also saddened when he learned of their financial plight. He told his story to other members of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle 5485 of the Columbian Squires at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.  Garcian and his Squires raised $1,500 for the memorial.  He also gained the notice of the Memorial and they invited Tom Stanfa, Garcian D’Cruz, and the Squires to the 65th Anniversary event at the memorial.  Not only were they invited, they were asked to speak in a keynote speech to generate enthusiasm before the passing of the hat for donations.

Jerry Pilarski, the Heavlins, and Gene and Louise Drogos of our post  joined them for this event.    We watched them stand with government and  local civic leaders, a Medal of Honor recipient, and other dignitaries, as they spoke of the importance of the memorial and why they raised the money.  Their speeches set the tone for the annual collection of donations for the memorial.  We came home very proud of what Tom and his students accomplished.  It was our Chapel Hill youth, miles from home, that were making a patriotic difference where it really counted.  Learn more

In October 2011, the English Honors students and other students in the Academy of Information Technology at Chapel Hill High School premiered a video of their two-year  journey of study on The Bedford Boys.  It was clear that everyone involved in its research and production took the project very seriously.    Learn more

We, at Post 9100, are proud to have been a part of the nominating process that recognizes greatness in our teachers.  We were also very honored to nominate Tom Stanfa as a Chapel Hill Hometown Hero.  He was selected by Ron Stutts, WCHL 1360 AM, as the February 2nd, 2012, Village Pride Award winner.  Tom, in addition to five 3-minute news spots today, will be honored at the 2013 Annual Village Pride Award Luncheon.  Play award story

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