Holy Cross teacher wins state VFW teacher award, in running for national award

Submitted photo

VFW Department of Minnesota Commander Dan Meyer (left) presents Michael Bass-Smith with his Department of Minnesota Smart/Maher VFW National Citizen Education Teacher Award for 2023-2024 in the middle school category on Jan. 13.

Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) selects elementary (grades K-5), middle (grades 6-8), and high school (grades 9–12) teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program.

Founded in 1899, the VFW supports the education of America’s youth. The VFW identifies and recognizes teachers who instill a sense of national pride in students, promote civic responsibility, flag etiquette, and patriotism in their classrooms.    

Montgomery VFW Post 5340 proudly announces that post member Michael Bass-Smith, a middle school teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School in Webster, was awarded the Department of Minnesota Smart/Maher VFW National Citizen Education Teacher Award for 2023-2024 at the Department’s Mid-Winter Conference banquet on Saturday, Jan. 13, held at the Minneapolis Marriott NW Hotel in Brooklyn Park.

Bass-Smith was selected as the Montgomery VFW Post 5340 winner in October 2023, and the Second District VFW winner in the middle school category in November 2023.

As the Minnesota state winner, his entry was forwarded to VFW National Headquarters for consideration in the national contest. The national winner will be announced at the VFW National Convention June 13-16, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. The national awards for each grade level include $1,000 for the teacher’s professional development expenses, $1,000 award for each winning teacher’s school, commemorative plaques, and all-expense paid trip to the national convention.

Judging criteria includes the extent to which the teacher encourages and/or models good citizenship and community involvement; how much innovation the teacher utilizes in the classroom; to what degree the teacher demonstrated an ability to identify and utilize new and exceptional resources to fund, facilitate, and provide materials for their classroom; and to what degree the teacher appears to be passionate about the profession of teaching.

Other Minnesota winners are Lisa Fabre in the elementary school category, a teacher at Ogema Elementary School; and David Leppke in the high school category, a teacher at Canby High School.

Bass-Smith is Post 5340’s third state winner in recent years. Heidi Veazie, a teacher at TCU High School, won in 2020-2021; and Christine Trcka, a middle school teacher at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic School, won in 2022-2023.

The Montgomery VFW Post 5340 congratulates Michael Bass-Smith on his exemplary display of patriotism in the classroom and his outstanding efforts to educate our youth about our history and the role of our veterans in it.


About Bass-Smith

Bass-Smith is a U.S. Army Veteran, having served in the 534th Military Police Company, the 1998 United States Army Military Police Warfighter Team, the 10th Mountain Division Band, 2nd Military Police Company; as a recruiter and station commander, and many other leadership positions during his career. He is also a two-time soldier of the month.

Upon retirement from the military, he received his criminal justice degree from American Military University, and his degree in education/social studies from the University of Alabama.

As a history and music teacher at Holy Cross Catholic School, Bass-Smith conducts the Veterans Day program for his school, which includes the folds of the flag demonstration, an oldest veteran and youngest student cake cutting, song performances saluting all branches of the military, videos highlighting veterans and their actions during various wars, and historical presentations designed to help students understand the sacrifices of our veterans. His classes present cards to all veterans present and highlight the veterans’ service.

Bass-Smith’s classroom is covered with flags, demonstrating the history of our nation through the flags stemming from the Grand Union flag to the current flag of the United States of America.

This year his class is participating in the “Sox for Veterans” campaign, which is tied to the Knight of Columbus. Students collect pairs of sox and other items to give to veterans around Christmas time for the campaign.

He teaches citizenship through his history classes. He highlights the Vietnam veterans with statutes and portraits on his classroom walls, which are set in the same mirrored state as that of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

As a veteran, Bass-Smith is also able to answer students’ questions about military service and sacrifice, and assist them in understanding what it takes to serve, and to put our country before all else.


Nominate a teacher

All current certified/licensed teachers in grades K-12 are eligible for this prestigious award. Anyone (fellow teachers, parents, interested individuals, supervisors, family members, or persons themselves) can nominate a deserving teacher for this award. Nominations are due to your local VFW Post by October 31 each year.

Nomination forms, required documentation, eligibility criteria, et cetera, can be found by visiting vfw.org and going to the “Community, Youth & Education” tab, or by contacting your local VFW Post 5340 Commander, Ed Keogh, at 952-334-2128. It is not too early to start planning your entry for the 2024-2025 competition.

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