Reflections from a Chicago Teacher
by Leanne Dumais, Admiral Rickover Naval Academy, Chicago IL
During my Normandy Allies experience, I began to rethink my teaching strategy. As I visited each monument and beach, I realized how differently I want to approach WWII now. Looking over my old curriculum, I realized how little we discuss the landings. Our World Studies course has always focused on overall themes and not on specific events. Honestly, after this experience, that cannot be the case anymore. It is essential that my students understand the significance of the Normandy Landings. The stories of the soldiers and citizens gave a personal touch to the traditional history textbook. Their stories tell of the sacrifice, suffering, and pain of the war on a level that can be never read from a book. I heard amazing stories from French citizens and the group leaders that will place my students on the beaches of Normandy. The landings came alive, and it is my hope that I can do the same for my students. I need to teach them to remember, remember all the lives lost, the sacrifices, the freedom we have gained because of the courage of our soldiers. It is my mission that my students understand the significance.
On a more personal note….the Normandy Allies trip was the most rewarding and meaningful experience of my life. Walking on Omaha beach brought to life what our soldiers sacrificed. Before this trip, I understood that our men sacrificed themselves to stop the Nazi regime, but it was a superficial comprehension. I wanted to believe that I truly understood….but I didn’t. My comprehension was almost a façade….something I had learned in a history textbook. On that beach, trudging through the sand, however, I felt the sacrifice. I envisioned our men carrying packs of at least 80 pounds running up the beach, vulnerable. I would not have been able to truly appreciate their courage, a bravery I will never know, without this experience.
Thank you to Normandy Allies for this unbelievable and life changing experience. I cannot wait to use all the knowledge I have gained from the trip to influence my students.
Leanne Dumais, a graduate of Northwestern, teaches History and Mathematics at Rickover Naval Academy. She initiated a Churchill competition at Rickover to encourage writing and speaking. In successive rounds, students write an essay about Churchill, critique the meaning and contemporary significance of his speeches, and deliver their own speeches. The winner receives the Churchill medal, signifying excellence in history.