Redmond High School (RHS) Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher Mark Winger was recently awarded Teacher of the Year by Deschutes Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 4108 in Redmond, Ore.
“I’m honored and humbled by the recognition,” Winger said. “The VFW is a revered organization and I simply wanted to make sure my students understood the importance of their sacrifices and ongoing contributions.”
Winger was presented with the award at a Redmond High assembly that included a VFW ceremony. His nomination for the honor was submitted by VFW Senior Vice Commander and Honor Guard Captain Don DeLand. “Mr. Winger often goes out of his way to instill in his students the importance of community, patriotism and civic duty and to make them aware of the service and sacrifice of veterans,” DeLand said.
Winger, now in his 18th year at RHS, teaches construction and wood technology. Last year, DeLand approached Winger about having his class build shell casing boxes for presentation to veteran families at military honor funerals.
“Mark jumped at the opportunity to have his students build the boxes and develop a relationship with local veterans,” DeLand said.
Winger invited the VFW into his classroom to explain what the organization means and why they perform military honors for veterans and their families when they pass away. They talked to the students, explaining the importance of the honors, including three rifle volleys, playing of Taps and the folding of their flag for the final time.
They also explained that when they present the box to the family, it contains three shell casings, representing the three volleys fired at the service. The volleys represent duty, honor and country.
“Mr. Winger didn’t just want his students to simply build some boxes and move on,” DeLand explained. “He wanted them to understand the deep significance of the boxes and their meaning to veteran families. This was demonstrated in early constructed boxes that did not meet Mr. Winger’s standards of excellence and required his students to continue working on the boxes until they were approved.”
The VFW criteria for the award includes teachers who teach citizenship, America’s history and traditions, and promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism. Teachers that organize community volunteer projects, invite veterans to speak in their classroom, and help students develop a better understanding of democratic values and beliefs.
As part of the local honor, Winger’s name was submitted to compete at the state VFW Teacher of the Year level, which he also won. He is now eligible to win national VFW teacher honors at the VFW national competition held in New Orleans this July.