Granite Falls teacher earns national VFW award

  • Thu Feb 2nd, 2012 9:15pm
  • News

By Amy Daybert Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — Monte Cristo Elementary teacher Debra Howell received a phone call last week from the national headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The call from the headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., was to inform Howell that she is a recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. She told her multi-age class of students in the fourth- through sixth-grades about the award after the phone call.

“It was quite a surprise,” she said. “The kids are pretty psyched about it.”

Howell had recently returned from a convention in Yakima where she accepted an award Jan. 21 for being the Washington State Veterans of Foreign Wars Elementary Teacher of the Year. The state award made her eligible for the national award. Howell was sponsored by Veterans Foreign War Post 1561 and Auxiliary in Arlington.

Howell, 50, is in her 28th year of teaching in the Granite Falls School District. Along with her students, she has organized Veterans Day parades and participated in other events to recognize veterans. Her classes over the past 15 years have help organize and ship care packages to soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Japan.

Howell, who in 2011 became the third teacher in the state to be inducted into The National Teachers Hall of Fame, was selected from about 1,200 entries submitted by VFW Posts across the country and overseas. She is one of three teachers chosen from throughout the country to receive this year’s award. One winner is chosen each year from elementary, middle school and high school categories.

Howell is scheduled to receive her award when she attends the 2012 VFW National Convention from July 21 to 26 in Reno, Nev. The award includes an all-expenses-paid trip to Reno, a $1,000 donation for Howell’s professional development account and another $1,000 for the school.

Howell said she would like the money for the school to be put in a fund that pays to send care packages to soldiers. Her class brought in donations of warm clothes, blankets, toys and candy last week to send to children in Afghanistan. They learned of the need from a soldier who corresponds with the students. Her class on Tuesday packed 452 items into boxes.

Howell would also like for the money to pay for a plaque to be put near the school’s flag pole where a POW/MIA flag was raised in December. The award is an incentive for herself and her students to keep supporting veterans, she said.

“What it does for me is it helps give me that sense that other people think its important to support veterans and it’s so important for the kids, too.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.