On December 1st, 2022, the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation was delighted to host teachers from New Jersey and New York and teachers from across the country as part of the National Council for Social Studies Conference this year.
The National Council for Social Studies hosted its first conference since the pandemic in Philadelphia. Before the conference, off-site clinics are offered by partnering organizations. The NJVVMF was proud to introduce teacher participants to the Vietnam Era and the organization itself, including The Memorial and the Museum.
The keynote speaker from the event was Dr. Roger Harris; the Marine featured in Ken Burns’ documentary, The Vietnam War. Dr. Harris provided an inspirational talk that focused on his time in Vietnam and his over forty-five years working in k-12 schools and universities. Roger was born and raised in the Roxbury section of Boston after graduation. He served three years of active duty with the United States Marine Corps, including a thirteen-month tour of duty with a combat unit in Vietnam. After his service, Roger went on to teach in segregated Boston. He had an outstanding education career, culminating in serving as founder and superintendent of The Boston Renaissance Charter Public School.
Dr. Harris reminded the audience of teachers and our Vietnam Veteran Volunteers of the importance of adults in their lives. He also focused on the honors of war and the need to teach students the importance of youth seeing themselves as citizens of a global community. It was precisely the inspirational speech teachers needed to hear at this time.
The off-site clinic continued with a panel of women who served in the War. Ann Kelsey put together a panel including her own story of being a Librarian in Army Special Services. Mary Reyolds Powell, an internal medicine nurse, and Rene Johnson, a recreational specialist, aka “Donut Dolly,” rounded out the panel. Each woman shared their unique experience in Vietnam and provided a different perspective on the war. After lunch, the participants were introduced to our newest partnering organization, The Vietnamese Boat People Podcast, and their Founder and Chief Storyteller, Tracey Nguyen Mang. In her presentation, Tracey shared her family’s story of their leaving South Vietnam post-war. The audience was transported into what felt like a living room conversation between her father and her about the difficulties of leaving and keeping the family together on a boat from their homeland. We are extremely excited to partner with this organization and encourage the telling of these stories in the classroom.
The day continued with the best part of our organization, our Vietnam Veteran Volunteer Tour Guides. In a panel entitled “Vets on Video,” our volunteers broke down the good, bad, and ugly of the Vietnam War narrative in popular movies. This presentation provided teachers with clips from these movies with insightful commentary and teachable moments.
The NJVVMF would like to recognize our Museum Educator Keri A. Giannotti for her tireless efforts to produce high-quality and jam-packed professional development programs for teachers now nationwide. We would also like to thank the National Council for Social Studies, especially David Bailor, Director of Meeting and Exhibits, Lawrence M. Paska, Executive Director, and Dr. Shannon Pugh, President, for their commitment to teaching hard history and organizing the conference this year. We would also like to thank the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies under the direction of Executive Director Hank Bitten, who also served as the Local Arrangements Committee Co-Chair for his constant support and sponsorship of our programs. We will be hosting our Annual Interdisciplinary Forum on March 22nd, 2023, focusing on Journalism in the Vietnam Era and celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Museum and Educational Center. For more information, please contact Keri at firstname.lastname@example.org