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Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9133 present Maria Cruz with the 2013 VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, at Heroes Elementary School aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 19. Cruz was recognized for hard work and dedication to her students and community.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jared Lingafelt

VFW honors Heroes Elementary teacher

19 Mar 2014 | Lance Cpl. Jared Lingafelt

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars awarded Maria Cruz as the 2013 VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award, at Heroes Elementary School aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, March 19.

The annual VFW award recognizes a special teacher who not only positively influences the students in the classroom, but also the surrounding community and military families.

“She has complete and total devotion to the education of these kids and stands out in the schools while helping the local military community,” said Brian Scarbough, a life member of the VFW.

The award came as a complete surprise, one she never dreamed of, said Cruz.

“I was surprised and honored at the same time,” said Cruz, a 3rd grade teacher at Heroes Elementary School. “As teachers, we all work hard and deserve to be recognized.”

The VFW supports not only veterans, but other individuals who positively impact the community.

“Not only are we here to support our veterans, but we are also here to help educate and better the future of America. What better way than to recognize who is on the front lines every day with our kids, and that’s our teachers,” said Scarbough.

Cruz’s dedication to her job is an inspiration to others, explained Lisa Nassar, Cruz’s coworker.

“She is so devoted to her job and cares so much about every single student,” said Lisa Nassar, 3rd grade teacher at Heroes Elementary School. “She is so patient, caring and calm with her class, even when other teachers don’t have the patience, she’s there keeping everything together.”

Cruz’s positive influence and connection with her students has influenced teachers throughout the school, said Nassar.

“She is the teacher that all the parents hope their children have,” said Nassar.

Late nights and early mornings are nothing unusual for Cruz.

“She stays long after school lets out to stay with students if their parents can’t pick them up,” said Nassar. “I have seen her car at the school at 6 p.m. and it’s the only car around.”

For Cruz, teaching isn’t about being recognized or winning awards. It is about helping as many children as she can.

“I don’t like to talk about myself or brag about my accomplishments and was taught to be humble,” said Cruz. “I never thought I would win something like this and it’s such a wonderful gesture from the VFW to go beyond what they do every day to recognize a teacher.”

Military students can pose unique challenges for teachers, especially if the teacher doesn’t understand the situation. Cruz, no stranger to the military lifestyle, understands what the children go through and she is always willing to go the extra mile for the kids, explained Nassar.

Although Cruz is the one in front of the class teaching, she said she wouldn’t be able to do what she does if it wasn’t for the support she has back home.

“My husband helps me out in so many ways,” said Cruz. “He helps me decorate the class room and helps me get all the supplies I need for the class.”

Teachers all around the world make a difference in children’s lives every day; recognizing them is the least we can do, explained Scarbough.


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