Yvonne Fiala receives the Golden Star Award from Stefan Cieslik. (photo submitted)

Teacher, students earn provincial honour

W.L. Seaton teacher Yvonne Fiala and students recognized for No Stone Left Unturned project

Researching details about local First World War veterans has resulted in a provincial award for a Vernon high school teacher.

W.L. Seaton Secondary’s Yvonne Fiala has been awarded the B.C. Retired Teachers Association’s Legion Golden Star Award for her project, Vernon First World War Veterans/No Stone Left Unturned, involving students and local seniors.

“I’m very happy to have received this award and it’s very fulfilling,” said Fiala. “As a teacher, it’s great that we can be realized for our work. This is an honour. Very satisfying.”

Fiala participated in a cemetery tour led by Lawrna Myers and the Vernon and District Family History Society and hearing about the time and effort the historical society was taking to restore veterans’ headstones/markers, she was inspired to get her students involved.

Fiala and two groups of Grade 11 French immersion social studies students were responsible for doing a research project on a veteran from Vernon buried in the Pleasant Valley Cemetery and making a display of their project.

“This would depend on what information they could find, what they did in the war, some background on their family,” said Fiala.

The students would then go to the Pleasant Valley Cemetery and lay poppies on the headstones/markers of veterans’ graves.

“I was extremely proud of what we had accomplished and learned,” said Fiala. “What certainly touches me the most is that multiple members of the community, of all generations, were able to join hands and remember those who had fought and fallen for our country.”

Fiala said students found it challenging to get information, and what they were able to find out was surprising and rewarding.

“This project was really interesting because it engaged us in a way that not many other projects can,” said student Ella Oduro.

“By doing personalized research about the veterans, we were able to understand and learn from their stories beyond just talking or reading about the war in class. As we researched and pieced their lives together, we were really able to connect with the veterans and honour them in a meaningful way.”

Fiala said Legion members were brought around to see the displays and many members – who are sons and daughters or relatives of First World War veterans – were grateful with the students’ efforts.

“They were touched that we were keeping their memories alive and remembering sacrifices made,” said Fiala. “They were eager to learn what the students had been doing and hear the stories, and they had stories to tell the students as well.”

The BCRTA Golden Star Awards are given to public school programs that feature the interaction of seniors and students; require students to think and work creatively; access and use the community as an information source; and require students to work cooperatively with each other and outside sources.