The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) have named Mary Baldwin University teaching partner Linda Petzke Virginia middle school teacher of the year.
The VFW annually recognizes the top elementary, middle, and high school teachers who promote American history, traditions, and institutions effectively in their lessons.
“I treasure this award from the VFW. I so admire these men and women for all they did for our country,” Petzke said. “I try to make certain that my students understand the sacrifice made by each of the veterans that visit our classroom every year.”
Petzke, who teaches U.S. history to seventh graders at Stewart Middle School in Fort Defiance, will find out in March if she is recognized at the national level.
“Linda’s teaching skills are extraordinary,” said Adjunct Professor Donald Roe, who works alongside Petzke in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program at Mary Baldwin. “She is always enthusiastic in the classroom and finds ways to continually keep learning exciting for her students.”
Petzke is known for constructing creative activities to fully engage and excite her class. In a nod to her class mascot — the gator — and a classic board game, her students play “Gatoropoly,” to demonstrate their knowledge of industry and factory conditions. They also emulate characters from the 1920s in a student-produced radio show called “Gator Gab.”
“This type of activity seems to work,” Petzke said. “I would describe my teaching style as that of a truthful storyteller. I try to assist my students in understanding the ‘why’ of history. It is the story of our country and who we are as a nation.”
In the MAT program, experienced classroom teachers such as Petzke are teamed up with Mary Baldwin professors to blend theory and practice and discover what works.
“Linda has been with me for 10 years teaching the child development course in the MAT program,” Roe said. “We team teach each class session. As in her regular middle school classroom, Linda creates excitement among the MAT students whenever she engages them in experiential learning activities. Her energy in the classroom is endless.”
The award-winning teacher also has taught at Verona Elementary School and in southwest Virginia. Outside of her classroom work, Petzke also works part time at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton.
“My advice for anyone wanting to be a teacher is to be passionate about your content … and to always do what is best for your students,” Petzke said. “Most importantly, remember the responsibility you have as a teacher to teach the whole child. And, of course, have fun.”