Four Manitoba teachers are going to Juno Beach in Normandy, France next week for an educational experience of a lifetime.
Scott Powers of Gimli High School, Alison Lynch of West Kildonan Collegiate, Mary Ellen Campbell of St. John’s Ravenscourt and Paul Longtin of Garden City Collegiate will be among 22 Canadian history educators being hosted by the Juno Beach Centre from July 28 to Aug. 4. The group will step onto the battlefields of France for historical training as part of the 10th annual Professional Development Battlefield Tour for Educators.
"It’s a pretty big honour for all of us because you’re in the mix with teachers from right across Canada, so being chosen as one of the 22 teachers to go, it’s pretty honourable," said Powers, 59, who has been a teacher for 35 years.
He said it is a chance to share important details and messages with their students that can be uniquely conveyed in the study of history.
"I tell my students: ‘You’re the witnesses now.’ Everyone is getting older, veterans and survivors, everyone that can make those connections is getting older. So if we don’t keep it alive, if we don’t teach it, it will be just pages in a text book, and that’s not good enough," Powers said. "It truly is the George Santayana quote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’"
This year is an historic milestone as 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the centennial of the start of the First World War.
During the 10-day tour, the participants will tour Vimy Ridge, Beaumont-Hamel, Dieppe, and historical sites in Normandy including the Juno Beach Centre, Omaha Beach, and Arromanches, with a Remembrance Service at the Bretteville Canadian War Cemetery where 2,500 Canadians are buried.
These educators will personally see and experience important chapters in Canada’s military history, experiences they will pass onto their students in the classroom.
The 22 educators were chosen based on letters they wrote in which they described the personal and professional benefits they felt these experiences would bring as well as on how it would impact their teaching of Canadian History in their classrooms and schools.
The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s only museum on the D-Day Landing Beaches in Normandy, founded by Second World War veterans and volunteers in 2003. It is described as a lasting testament to the Canadian contribution on D-Day and the Normandy Invasion.
The centre is owned and operated by the Juno Beach Centre Association (JBCA), a Canadian non-profit charitable corporation governed by a Board of Directors that is based in Burlington, Ont.
For more information on the Juno Beach Centre, please visit: www.junobeach.org.