Frost Teacher John Heeg Chosen for WWI Research Program in Europe

Frost Teacher John Heeg Chosen for WWI Research Program in Europe

John Heeg, a social studies teacher at Robert Frost, was chosen to participate in National History Day’s Memorializing the Fallen program, sponsored by the World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Foundation. Heeg was one of just 18 teachers accepted out of 334 who applied. This summer, he and the other participants will travel to Europe to study World War I; each will research a service member who never returned home.

Heeg has been teaching for 20 years, the last 16 in Deer Park. He also serves as an educational technology mentor for the district, mentors other teachers and coaches track. Several years ago, Heeg had participated in a teacher fellowship with the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, which involved visiting the museum itself and producing a lesson plan, then returning home and publishing it. When the museum heard about the Memorializing the Fallen teacher professional development program, it encouraged Heeg to apply.

The 18-month study will include attending webinars and participating in online meetings. In June, the group will spend 12 days in Europe, making stops at Somme American Cemetery, St. Mihiel American Cemetery, Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Suresnes American Cemetery, Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, and battle sites and monuments at Belleau Wood, Verdun, and Meuse Argonne. On the trip’s last day, the, teachers will attend the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles at the Palace of Versailles.

“It’s great to be a part of this,” said Heeg. “I will learn a lot and bring a lot back into the classroom.”

Heeg’s mission overseas will be to research the story of a Silent Hero, an American service member who died in World War I and is still buried in Europe, conduct in-depth research on the person, prepare a profile and eulogy for them, and find ways to incorporate this into a lesson plan.  In trying to select a fallen veteran to research, Heeg focused on Marines from New York, being that Heeg himself was a Marines hospital corpsman for eight years in a prior career. He chose Sergeant Neil Evans Wheeler of Oswego, who died in combat during the Battle of Belleau Wood on June 17, 1918. Heeg is currently researching Sgt. Wheeler’s life and looking for help telling this hero’s story prior to delivering a eulogy at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in June. Anyone with information about Sgt. Wheeler’s can contact Heeg at heeg.j@deerparkschools.org.