Chuck Downard presents Gwendolyn Gray with a Teacher of the Year award as a part of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8577 Voice of Democracy contest on Saturday in Copperas Cove.

COPPERAS COVE   — Teachers and students demonstrating patriotism were stars themselves Saturday in the eyes of local Veterans of Foreign Wars and auxiliary members.

VFW Post 8577 and the Ladies Auxiliary honored three teachers and six students with annual awards including Teacher of the Year, Voice of Democracy Audio Essay and Patriot’s Pen Essay.

Seven Cove teachers who promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism also were nominated for the awards.

The winner for kindergarten through fifth grade was Ann Aker, who teaches pre-K at Clements Parsons Elementary School, where she organizes multiple community service projects for her students and their families. She has about 100 students in Kids Care Club, which she started in September.

In grades six to eight, Natalie Honts of S.C. Lee Junior High School was selected for her promotion of patriotism in the classroom.

“Sixth grade is a year of transition when students are at a difficult age,” said Principal Kaylene Love, who co-nominated Honts. “Natalie orients the students to junior high and teaches them skills of citizenship. She models hard work and determination.”

In the high school competition, teacher Gwendolyn Gray was selected for her commitment to instill patriotism in her students. In the Voice of Democracy contest, senior Kaitlynn Blalock won first place for her essay, “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future,” where she discussed the government shutdown and pessimism in today’s society.

“Many people forget that people in our community are the ones that truly create this nation,” Blalock said. “The way people look out for each other and how they deal with certain situations is inspiring.”

Macksensi Holt finished second in the competition and Emily Myers was third.

For the Patriot’s Pen Essay competition, Joshua Cademartori placed first, Noah Luna placed second, and Shaena Peart placed third for their essays on “What Patriotism Means to Me.”

The VFW and Ladies Auxiliary submit their winning entries to the district level, state and on to the national competition

in Washington, D.C., where scholarships are awarded.

Contact Wendy Sledd at wsledd@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476

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