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Congratulations, Soren Gammelgard

VFW honors Twelve Bridges instructor as teacher of the year
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Soren Gammelgard’s ability to make history real for his students has earned him the title of Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Teacher of the Year on both the local and state level. “It’s an honor and it’s motivating,” Gammelgard said of the award. “I keep doing my best and try new things all of the time in teaching democracy and patriotism.” Gammelgard, a fifth-grade teacher at Twelve Bridges Elementary School, was selected by Lincoln’s Veterans of Foreign War Post 3010 as teacher of the year for Lincoln, according to Jon Hodson, quarter master for VFW Post 3010. “We went to Jeremy Lyche, who is the principal at Twelve Bridges, and asked him for a nomination,” Hodson said. “We did that because that school does a Veteran’s Day service each year so we thought that was a logical choice as a school.” The teacher received a plaque and a check for $100 Friday for his win at the local level, according to Hodson, and will be honored at a banquet Friday in Sacramento for his win at the state level. Hodson said the person chosen by the VFW for teacher of the year “is someone who embodies the American values that all of the veterans have chosen to fight for.” Gammelgard explained why he puts an emphasis on history, social studies and patriotism in his classroom. “”It’s important for them (students) to obviously have a sense of time and place for where they are now and be able to evaluate what they can do within their own lives to have an effect on future history,” Gammelgard said. Last year, one of Gammelgard’s students, Mackenzie Simpson, created a poster about the Battle of Bunker Hill that placed first at the national level for a contest put on by the Sons of the American Revolution. “The way he mentored Mackenzie for the Son’s of the American Revolution poster contest shows his commitment to American history and everything veterans over the years have fought for,” Hodson said. Lyche, who nominated Gammelgard for the award, said the fifth-grade teacher “definitely deserves it.” “Soren was nominated for this award due to the amount of emphasis he places on history, social studies and patriotism,” Lyche said. “He tries to bring it to life for the kids, and tries to make it meaningful and personable.” Gammelgard organizes one event for the entire fifth grade, not just his class, that brings history home for them, according to Lyche. Members of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution come to the school each year and give a presentation about life during that time period, Lyche said. “They come dressed in costumes and do presentations for the kids. They talk about what their life was like at that time and bring it home to the kids and make it real for them,” Lyche said. “They come fully dressed in the regalia of the time and then they talk with that dialect. It’s really a fantastic opportunity for the students to get a grasp on that time period.” Lyche said the hands-on approach to teaching history “makes history real to the students,” making “learning meaningful for the students.” “I think it’s exciting it’s a subject our students can learn so much from,” Lyche said. “If it’s presented the wrong way, it can be dry and boring.” Gammelgard’s class also tours the State Capitol each year. “It’s to give them a sense of democracy in action to see how our state capitol runs and give them a real life experience by going into the meeting rooms and getting a real hands-on approach to government,” Gammelgard said. He also incorporates visual arts and technology into his instruction about history and social studies. “I try to use as many technological aspects, from web sites to video clips,” Gammelgard said. “A lot of the web sites have access to museums, and it’s a time right now when kids can experience all of the assets that the country has without having to travel.” Kiana Luong, 10, said it’s “really exciting” that her teacher won. “That’s a big opportunity for him because he can meet other teachers from states all over the country,” Kiana said. Kiana described Gammelgard as creative and honest. “For social studies, when we’re done with a unit, we do an art project on that unit and it’s lots of fun,” Kiana said. “We’ve done clay, painted, we’ve made posters and we drew things in our sketch books.” Brennan Roozell, 10, said Gammelgard makes learning fun. “He tricks us into it (learning,)” Brennan said.