ST. JOHN | For the past 28 years, Lake Central High School history teacher Tom Clark has helped generations of students put a face on history and honor the ultimate sacrifices of servicemen and women through his veterans’ history classroom project.
On Saturday, Clark received the National Education Award at The American Legion national convention in Houston during the joint Americanism and Children & Youth Commission meeting.
The award recognized Clark’s Gold Star Memorial project. He has assigned each student in his history classes a fallen hero from wars including World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The students not only learn about the ultimate sacrifice of these heroes made, but they also develop an appreciation for who the individuals were by doing research and contacting their families, said Larry Veracco, Lake Central School Corp. superintendent.
“Our kids get to make history. Initially, they get excited when a family returns their calls. But as they go on, this history really smacks them in the face. It puts a whole different face on reporting just the facts and figures,” said Veracco, who first met Clark in 1993.
“Tom is not just a history teacher. He mentored me about how to work with troubled kids,” the superintendent said Monday.
The Interact Club Clark sponsors attracts many students with divergent interests including athletics, science and theater, Veracco said.
“They congregate in his classroom because it is a caring and open place. Tom is one of our major philanthropists.”
An Army and National Guard veteran and a member of Schererville American Legion Post 485, the 56-year old Clark most recently served in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007 after enlisting in the Indiana National Guard in 2005 at age 50. He originally served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1979.
“As an educator, I’ve learned you can’t just teach students dates and places in a classroom. It means so much more to get them emotionally involved,” Clark said at the awards ceremony, according to an American Legion news release.