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A Mon Valley educator with more than two decades of experience has been named by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pennsylvania as the VFW "Voice of Democracy Teacher of the Year."
Melissa L. Fulmer, an English teacher at West Mifflin Area High School, earned the VFW's top honor for encouraging dozens of her students to participate in the VOD program over the last two years.
She will receive a VOD plaque on Saturday at the organization’s Mid-Winter Conference banquet held in the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Green Tree.
“I am honored to be acknowledged for encouraging students to voice their opinions and am proud of them for doing so in a respectful and meaningful manner,” Fulmer said.
Originally from Duquesne, Fulmer holds a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. A graduate of West Mifflin Area High School, she earned her undergraduate degrees in teaching and English from Duquesne University and the Community College of Allegheny County. She was nominated for VOD Teacher of the Year by VFW Post 914 Intrepid, West Mifflin.
Fulmer noted that the VFW VOD program is a unique educational challenge to her students.
“Unlike many popular means of mass communication, specifically social media sites, the VFW VOD program offers students an avenue of communication that challenges them to express their ideas with an academic voice, yet be personal in their content and style,” Fulmer said.
“As an oral communications instructor, the VFW VOD contest aligns well with the learning objectives of my Public Speaking elective. I will continue to encourage student participation in the VFW VOD Contest for years to come.”
According to VFW Department of Pennsylvania spokesman David A. Sandman, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country annually enter the VOD contest to win a share of the $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition. The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program in 1947 to provide students in grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles.
The VOD Teacher of the Year Award was added to recognize education professionals who help students learn about veterans’ contributions to the nation’s history and who make it possible for students to enter their essays into the contest.
Sandman said that with 85,000 members in 400 local posts, Pennsylvania is the largest state department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization. In Pennsylvania, VFW organizations donate more than $13 million in financial donations and volunteer more than 15 million hours of community service annually.
Local posts such as VFW Post 914 Intrepid, West Mifflin, help their communities through support of programs that assist youth, senior citizens, military personnel, less fortunate persons, veterans of all ages, students and teachers. Since the early 1990s, the VFW has been a critical supporter of every major piece of legislation that benefits veterans and their families, and uses its legislative affairs staff in Washington, D.C. today to continue advocating for those who have served America in the military.
For more information about VFW Post 914 and its activities, contact Commander Jake Bradich at (412) 464-9838.
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Editor's Note: Mike Mauer is a member of VFW Post 914 "Intrepid"
Originally published January 18, 2017.