Ripley High School teacher Sarah Gallagher was recently selected to travel to the Palace of Versallies, with 17 other teachers from around the United States, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versallies as part of the “Memorializing the Fallen” program.
“Memorializing the Fallen” is a professional teacher development program from National History Day which is sponsored by the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. Gallagher, who was chosen out of 334 applicants, was more than excited to be selected to participate in the program.
Gallagher along with the other teachers chosen, participated in a day-long education symposium entitled “The Treaty of Versallies: 100 Years Later.” It consisted of virtual lectures, discussions, as well as a research project, where they learned about a service member who never returned home.
“It was a neat opportunity to be there for the 100th anniversary of the signing,” Gallagher said. “Michael Neiberg (author of the “The Treaty of Versailles”) was one of the speakers and we got to read his text book prior to the symposium. It was neat to get to meet him in person when we got there.”
During Gallagher’s near two-week stay in France, she said they visited different memorials, cemeteries, and monuments.
“We gave eulogies along the way to soldiers from our home states that had fallen and are buried over there,” Gallagher said.
Each teacher was to research a military member from their home state who had fallen in World War I, prior to the signing, as a component of the program.
“My favorite part of the trip was going to the cemetery where my hero from West Virginia was buried,” Gallagher said. “He was from Huntington, his name was Leroy Ferguson and he was a Corporal. He was actually buried in France.”
Gallagher said Ferguson passed away in October, just a month shy of the end of the war.
“I had to do a lot of research on him,” Gallagher said. “I went to the West Virginia Archives and got as much information as I could with one of the researchers there. We also went to the National Archives to pull records from there as well.”
Gallagher said they were able to create lesson plans from the trip to use in their classrooms next year.
Overall Gallagher feels her trip was a great experience and she encourages other West Virginia teachers to seek professional development opportunities as well.
Gallagher has taught several classes at Ripley High School for the past six years including World War II and the 1960’s, which were both electives; however, at the start of the 2019-2020 school year she will begin working at Saint Albans High School in Kanawha County.