By Virginia Veterans of Foreign WarsFebruary 16, 2012
FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 16, 2012) -- A Manchester Middle School teacher who donates much of her spare time to the Fort Lee USO Center has been named Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Dennita Miskimen accepted the award while attending the recent VFW Winter Council meeting at the Crown Plaza Williamsburg. Virginia State Commander Charles Absher presented her a plaque and a stipend for her classroom just before her acceptance speech.
"Standing before you to receive this award is incredibly humbling, for it is you who served our country valiantly while preserving for every boy and girl, man and woman, the freedom we have today," Miskimen said. "You are our heroes … our walking history books."
A graduate of Old Dominion University, Miskimen has spent the past 11 of her 14 teaching years in the Chesterfield County school system. According to her colleagues, she is a very passionate and compassionate teacher who ardently promotes America's history, traditions and values in her classroom, area pre-schools and through hundreds of community involvement hours. She is the founder of From the Classroom to the Troops, an organization she says "bridges the gap between our military and students."
"Virginia is rich with American history, from the inception of our first permanent English settlement in Jamestown (1607) to present day. Here in the Richmond area, Fort Lee provides the perfect opportunity for our students to partner with our troops both at home and overseas."
Her husband, Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Miskimen, retired after 26 years of service. Now, their son, Petty Officer 2nd Class James Miskimen, is a Seabee based at Little Creek Amphibious Base, Virginia Beach. He has just completed his third tour to Afghanistan.
"We can trace our family's military history back to the American Revolution. I believe there is no greater honor than being an American and I am passionate about teaching.
"Americanism begins with teaching loyalty and honor with the Pledge of Allegiance every single school day -- not merely respectfully saying the words, but truly understanding the meaning behind the words."
As president of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2239, Miskimen uses every opportunity to engage her students in community services projects. She promoted the second annual Military Food Drive at Manchester Middle School in which sixth grade students collected more 1,100 pounds of non-perishable food for cash-strapped military families.
Her students also created more than 600 holiday cards that were distributed among area veteran's hospitals, the USO and troops overseas. Additionally, students created Christmas cards for her son's school friend, Marine Cpl. Matthew Bradford, and Army Sgt. Brandon Tucker, a Colonial Heights Soldier wounded in Afghanistan just before the holidays in 2011.
"Sharing both Matt's and Brandon's personal journeys with my students created a deeper personal understanding of the sacrifices made for our freedom. Both men are true American heroes."
On most Saturdays, you will find Miskimen and her daughter Victoria, a ninth grader at Dinwiddie Junior High, spreading their contagious energy throughout the Fort Lee USO. They average 10 hours of volunteer time every weekend.
"It is truly a 'Home Away from Home' (a USO motto) for our military … a place where Victoria and I are honored to provide support for our military," said Miskimen.
Each year, the VFW selects an outstanding teacher from each of the grade school levels. As a middle-school representative, Dennita won local, district and state-level competitions and now advances to the national level where she will compete against 53 other candidates. The winners of the national competition each receive a $1,000 classroom award and $1,000 for their school.