Special Merit Award : Eddy Bowers
It ’ s no surprise that 73-year-old Army veteran Eddie Bowers of Morgan Hill received Celebrate Morgan Hill ’ s Special Merit Award ; Since 1991 he has been honoring veterans at the downtown Veterans ’ Memorial in Morgan Hill , on Memorial Day and on Veteran ’ s Day .
The ceremonies usually begin with a moment of silence for the troops , a flag salute , and raising of a deceased servicemember ’ s flag . Then local music teacher Karen Crane leads schoolchildren in singing patriotic songs , followed by a prayer , led by Pastor Frank Riley . They read the names of all the deceased Morgan Hill veterans who have passed away in wars dating back to WWI and conclude by playing “ Taps .”
For Bowers , honoring his fellow veterans is something he wanted to do for years . Each time he returned home from one of his three tours of Vietnam during 1968 and 1970 , he and his fellow service members were greeted with yelling , protests and pounding against the bus they were on . “ No one has ever seen me in my uniform at home ,” he said .
Educator of the Year : Felicia Gaudin
The Educator of the Year is 29 year-old Felicia Gaudin , an 11th and 12th grade English teacher at Ann Sobrato High School . Once she got past her “ utter shock and disbelief ” at receiving the award , the humble teacher gave much of the credit for it to those who have helped her along the way .
“ I wouldn ’ t be the teacher or person that I am if not for my colleagues and admin staff and the students ,” she said .
Gaudin prides herself on building one-on-one relationships with her students . “ They are people and students first , and then we teach curriculum ,” she said . This includes taking the time to get to know her students and meet them where they ’ re at . Whether inserting a TikTok reference into their writing prompts or giving them choices on reading , she works hard on preserving their autonomy .
Working through the trauma of war and the painful reception took him time , but eventually he was able to pull together the ceremony . “ It was a scary thing to step into ,” he explained . “ But I kept thinking about guys I was in Vietnam with who didn ’ t make it back , and I didn ’ t want them to be forgotten ,” he said .
His military memories are painful , but he has worked hard to heal by visiting Vietnam eight times , each time working up the nerve to do or see things he couldn ’ t the time before . His final visit in 2018 was the most healing , when he spent time with a Vietnamese family who welcomed him , one man in particular . “ He treated me so great . When we got ready to leave , he told his niece how I gave him peaceful vibes .”
Honoring veterans took hours of research , with the aid of the Morgan Hill Historical Society , to track down the names of deceased Morgan Hill residents , but he found them : one man who perished in WWI , 19 who died in WWII , two who died in the Korean War , and nine in Vietnam .
“ When you ’ re in war , and you ’ ve got people dying in your arms , you think , do they put you in a coffin , and that ’ s the end of you ? I ’ m not going to let that happen here .”
“ We ’ ve learned that giving kids choices amplifies their buy-in 110 percent ,” she said . She also appeals to her students by making her classroom as inclusive a space as possible . “ When you walk in , there ’ s pride flags , and a space that acknowledges all the students in the classroom , because it ’ s their space as much as mine .” The fact that many students like to hang out there in the mornings and breaks makes her feel she has achieved that sense of welcome .
For a relatively new teacher – she ’ s been teaching four years – the pandemic threw her , as it did many teachers , for a loop . “ It ’ s been a challenge I don ’ t think any credential program could have prepared me or anyone else for ,” she said .
Though online teaching was hard and led to feelings of burnout that she hopes never to repeat , she said it was “ eye opening ” in how she and her colleagues “ came together as a team to best support students .” She describes the nearly year and a half of online schooling as “ trial and error .” But she found several silver linings . “ It revealed how we can navigate technology and the relationships we already built with students to be successful .”
She also learned how to set boundaries for herself to prevent further burnout .
When things have been especially challenging , she leans on her colleagues and refers to a keepsake box in her desk full of thank you notes from students . “ The students have helped me get through this challenging time .”
26 SPRING 2022 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com