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Virtual Awards Ceremony Announced for 3 Montville Teachers Advancing to State Competition as VFW Nominates National Citizenship Education Awards

VFW national educators award nominees

VFW District Awards Virtual Presentation

Sunday, January 10 at 2:00 p.m.

This Ceremony Honors Teachers:

Trudy Coppola of Cedar Hill Elementary, Rick Crescente of Robert R. Lazar Middle, and 

James McManus of MTHS

 Three Montville Township Public Schools teachers have been nominated by Montville VFW Post 5481 to the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Awards. All three have passed the scrutiny of the VFW Post (town) and VFW District (county) levels and have advanced to the State competition. A VIRTUAL AWARDS CEREMONY honoring their achievements in earning the VFW District Awards will be held on Sunday, January 10 at 2:00 p.m. 

Trudy Coppola of Cedar Hill Elementary School is competing at the K-5 level, Rick Crescente of Robert R. Lazar Middle School is competing for the 6-8 award, and, from Montville Township High School, James McManus is competing at the grades 9-12 level. Having won in all three categories for the VFW District level, all three will now compete at the State level. The January 10 ONLINE Awards Ceremony will highlight the three educators’ achievements thus far in the competition.

Each year the Veterans of Foreign Wars selects elementary, middle, and high school teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program. The national award is named after former VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher.

The VFW Teacher of the Year award contest recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Prime candidates for this award are teachers who promote America’s history, civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism. 

“The Montville Township Public Schools District employs great examples of outstanding faculty who qualify as candidates for this award,” a Montville VFW Post 5481 press release recently stated. “Knowing this, this year Montville Post 5481 decided that it would sponsor three candidates The Post Commander appointed Dominick D’Andrea as Awards Chairman. Together they organized the program for the Post.”

Trudy Coppola, who was nominated at the elementary school level, ­­started working for the Montville Township Public Schools District as a substitute teacher twenty-two years ago, and then as a paraprofessional in 1999.  Coppola has been a special education teacher at Cedar Hill Elementary School for the last ten years. During that time she has been a key driver in the annual Veterans Day tribute at the school. Veterans are invited to spend the better part of the day with the students. The Cedar Hill Veterans Day program honors all veterans. Students read tributes as all the veterans’ names are read during an assembly in the school gym. The highlight is when each grade sings a patriotic song. An outstanding educator, Coppola has taught all students to show the utmost respect by having them stand quietly lining the school's hallways, with hands on hearts, as veterans file past. Her dedication is demonstrated by the manner in which she organizes these patriotic events. Her efforts guide her students to love patriotism, and her patriotism and sincerity are what motivated VFW Post 5481 to nominate Coppola for this award.

Rick Crescente was selected to represent Post 5481 at the middle school level. Crescente teaches eighth grade Social Studies at Robert R. Lazar Middle School. He has created initiatives designed to educate students on the importance and sacrifices of America’s veterans. Over the years Crescente has worked with his students organizing the placement of veteran markers and flags at the township’s cemeteries on Memorial Day. For the flag placement, Crescente has produced and distributed a video to make township people aware of the activity which instills both patriotism and respect. He spearheaded Montville Township High School baseball team’s tribute to veterans and has organized numerous fundraisers to benefit veteran causes. Through these fundraisers he has taught students the importance of volunteering and the good their efforts can do for veterans.

Crescente has organized numerous events that salute veterans which has instilled in his students a sense of patriotism. He has been the school’s leader in many different activities that center on respect for veterans with an emphasis on recognizing sacrifices they have made.

For many years, Crescente has coordinated the school’s Patriot’s Pen essay contests. He has been the key driver in keeping this program alive in Montville. For this and many other patriotic activities that he undertakes is why there is increased respect for our country by Montville’s students.

James McManus was chosen at the high school level for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Teacher Award due to the manner in which he promotes patriotism and citizenship in the classroom. McManus is a Social Studies teacher at Montville Township High School.

Since coming to the high school, McManus has coordinated the VFW Voice of Democracy audio essay program. He has been able to enlist widespread support among the students for this program. McManus offers guidance for students who are looking into a military career and he coordinates the school’s Boys State program. These activities instill patriotism in these students and in the school. McManus is very active in getting outside speakers to participate in his classroom’s learning experience. These speakers have included local veterans from different wars including WWII.

McManus is extremely active in scouting programs. In his capacity as a Merit Badge Counselor he advises scouts as they pursue badges related to citizenship. He is also active with student school trips to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, and to Philadelphia. McManus has implemented patriotic school programs that have focused on the different conflicts in American history and has turned them into class exercises, simulations and challenges.

 McManus’ varied initiatives demonstrate how he projects a theme emphasizing civics in the township’s school system. McManus is grounded in the ideals for patriotism, civic duty and respect for America. He projects these traits to the high school students and ultimately to the township itself. These are some of the characteristics that his students will require if they are to develop as future leaders in our America. Because of his ability and talent, Post 5481 nominated McManus for this Teacher Award.

Each candidate supplied their resumes which were submitted along with nomination letters from Post 5481 describing their patriotic qualities and accomplishments. Along with receiving Post 5481’s recognition all three have been selected to represent VFW District level and have advanced to the State competition. New Jersey’s winning K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 teachers will be announced on January 15, 2021.

National Winners receive $1000 for professional expenses and $1000 is awarded to each teacher's school. In addition, winners are offered an all-expense-paid trip to the VFW National Convention and an invitation to the Summer Seminar at Freedoms Foundation in Pennsylvania.

Montville VFW Post 5481 will hold a Virtual Awards Ceremony on Sunday, January 10 at 2 p.m. to congratulate Trudy Coppola, Richard Crescente and James McManus. 

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