Is A Message Of Hope For Many Students!
“It was all so overwhelming when I began to learn the truth,” the man in front of me began to share. “My dad was my hero and finally, I was understanding everything he never said.”
I’ve been hearing about Patrick Adams for a few years now, and I have meant to contact him for the same length of time because everywhere I turn I hear what a fabulous historian he is. I also hear that he is even more fabulous as a high school history teacher, and I know it must be true because Comanche High School principal, Chad Gee, recently nominated Mr. Adams for the Bryan Leadership in Education Award, made possible by Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan.
“I’ve been a teacher for sixteen years, and no one has ever done anything like this before,” Adams confided in me, obviously a bit awed. “He has even given me pointers on how to complete my part of the documentation.”
The award will be presented during a conference held March 3-5, and since along with the trophy will come a $5,000.00 check, all of our fingers are, of course, crossed that Patrick Adams will look as good on paper as he does every day in his classroom.
“If it is history, I’ve taught it, but right now in Comanche I’m only teaching U.S. History on the junior level.”
Mr. A. moved to Comanche after being out of the teaching field for four years to care for his ailing mother.
“It was very hard, but I can look back on it now and know that I was where God wanted me to be. I became so much closer to my mom while she was ill, and I would not take anything for that even though we reached a point to where I had to do everything for her.
“When she passed away, I was at that point where I had to have a job NOW, and it took nine months before I was hired at Comanche.”
And then Adams said something that I understood completely.
“While I was in Coleman, I taught life skills, and it was a whole new awakening. It made me a better teacher even though at the time, I felt like I did not really know what I was doing. However, that teaching assignment taught me a lot and made me realize that not all people are capable of learning in the same way. I learned to slow down and try another way if someone did not understand. I had not done that before.”
And so it was that an even better teacher came to Comanche High School.
“I was certainly ready to get back into teaching. There were times when I even daydreamed about being back behind the desk, being needed, and having a purpose.
So here I am, and boy do I have the stress because I care too much. Right now, I am still trying to find some type of balance between running my WWII team and my real job, which is teaching and getting kids ready for the EOC [end of course exam].”
The WWII group to whom Adams refers is something of a cross between living history, reenactments, and costumed historical presenters, and the teacher uses this group to teach other students about the WWII era.
“I have a large collection of artifacts, and I thought it would be better to have kids share them and the stories that go with them with other kids. They talk about the era, and they also show artifacts. Maybe they will do a presentation about a battle and show the artifacts that go with that presentation. Of course, all of this info will be on the STAAR exam as well as the EOC, and I believe students learn more from other students.”
And then we turned our conversation to the reason; what was it that made Patrick Adams such a student of WWII, made him spend the time and the money that it took to develop such an extensive collection of artifacts from that period in our nation’s history?
“My parents were older when I was born. My dad had served in the army…in the Pacific Theater in the Philippines, and he was my hero from the time I was born. I was so interested in his role in the war, but he would never talk. He shared his passion for history with me, but he would not talk about the war. He talked about his training and his trip over and back, but nothing that happened in between the two.
“When I got to college, I studied history because of him, and that was when I really became interested in him and the war, but when I asked, he would clam up. It was very frustrating. What little I learned at that time, I got from my mom and his sisters.”
“In 2009 I went to Philippines to see where he had been. He had passed away in 2007 and since a historian was leading the group, she started talking about a group of Americans, and I got to comparing notes, and I knew she was telling my dad’s story.
“Come to find out, he was with the 38th Infantry Division and the 151 Regimental combat team; that was the one that went in and attacked so fast that they were cut off. They are today known as the Avengers of Bataan. It was so overwhelming because I was just learning myself. I came back and sent off for my dad’s military records and started making sense of it all.”
Therein lies the great teacher.
“I think the reason he did not talk was not that he was wounded twice but that the war and killing was so foreign to his personality. He was forced to kill, and I think he hated and was afraid of what was inside of him because it had to come out to survive the war. He was afraid of himself. That is just my opinion.
“When we take the exhibit to other schools, we let the kids touch it all. When I was a kid, I wanted to do that, and now I have all of this stuff and what is the point in having it if I am not going to use it to teach with?
“Kids know nothing about history because of the way it has been taught in the past…kids come to me thinking they will be bored but I provide them with an emotional attachment to it and then they take the facts and do something with them. This is what my kids are doing in teaching others.
“They are able to take what they are feeling and relate it to the past, thus gaining an understanding of the past by putting it all into the terms of how they would feel given the same circumstances in the present.”
And don’t you wish all teachers put this much work into their teaching strategies? This past week, Mr. Adams took his students to Cisco High School. The photos you see throughout this article are from that day.
When I asked Mr. A. about the day in Cisco, he had the following to say:
“US Alive in ’45 takes my collection of artifacts to other schools and dresses in period costuming. They then give the visitor/student the feel of stepping back in time and hearing people speak about World War II. My student teaching group does not necessarily “reenact” any event from WW-2 (though we are working on it) so much as present information about the war from the perspective of the soldiers, sailors and “Rosie the Riveters” who were part of the Greatest Generation.
“My team has made up presentation boards and PowerPoints to go along with the artifacts. Their presentation boards are filled with pictures and information that will be on the U.S. History STAAR/EOC, so they are teaching and reviewing students in other schools for the state test. This group has had more extensive training in facts and concepts of World War II and is tested over this material. They are enthusiastic about the group and attend meetings twice a week before school and have even come to school on their days off to work on their project.”
Can you see why those students from Cisco learned a lot that day?