Multimedia Journalist

Jefferson City area teachers recognized by VFW

Jefferson City area teachers have been recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Basinger/Sone Memorial Post 1003 for sharing patriotic messages in the classroom.

The organization awarded teachers from the Jefferson City School District and Immaculate Conception Catholic School as local winners of the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award for 2020:

• Whitney Pleus, a fourth-grade teacher at Immaculate Conception.

• Jody Thomas, a sixth-grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

• Charlie Ledgerwood, a social studies teacher at Jefferson City High School.

Fifth-grader Eric Atheuser nominated Pleus because of the projects fourth-graders do in her class throughout the year. Atheuser wrote that the students created pictures in remembrance of 9/11, participated in the Operation Bugle Boy “I’m Writing You This Letter” activity and wrote letters to soldiers for Valentine’s Day.

“Mrs. Pleus is a great teacher with a big heart,” Atheuser wrote. “Her love for veterans inspired us to recognize the importance of their contribution to our country.”

Thomas was nominated by fellow teacher Amanda McCutchen for demonstrating the importance of giving back to the community inside and outside of the classroom.

Thomas regularly volunteers with the Samaritans Center and informs students on current events daily, McCutchen said.

“Just recently, she made sure every student wrote a thank you letter to a veteran,” McCutchen said. “If students did not have a veteran to interview, she found veterans and asked them to come to our school so the kids could have the experience to speak directly to them.”

Ledgerwood was nominated by JCHS Assistant Principal Shanna Schwarzer for his dual service to the country and students.

As the social studies department chair, Ledgerwood communicates information to staff and students, building lifelong relationships, Schwarzer said.

Additionally, he is an active major with the Missouri Army National Guard.

“Over 17 years of service, Maj. Ledgerwood has been deployed once to Afghanistan and has worked five state of emergencies,” Schwarzer said.

VFW local chapters recognize one teacher in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, auxiliary member and program chair Charlotte Dudenhoeffer said.

The purpose of the program is to “identify and recognize educators that have gone over and beyond,” Dudenhoeffer said.

This year, about 10 applications were submitted to the committee. Hopefully, more completed applications will be submitted in the future, Dudenhoeffer said.

Applications for the 2021 award will open July 2020 and close October 2020.

The three local winners’ applications have been sent to the district level. Winning submissions from there will move on to the national level.

VFW Post 1003 will recognize Ledgerwood, Pleus and Thomas at a reception Dec. 8. Each winner will receive a check for $200, Dudenhoeffer said.

Winners on the national level receive $1,000 for professional development expenses, $1,000 for their school, a plaque, and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the VFW National Conference.

For more information, contact Dudenhoeffer via email to

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