Teacher of the Year

Without our nation’s veterans, America wouldn't be the great nation it is today. Our youth deserve to learn about our rich history, traditions and the role of our veterans in creating and shaping America.

Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars selects elementary, middle, and high school teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program.

Please review the new rules and eligibility requirements and complete the 2023 entry form and brochure to nominate a teacher you know. Teacher nomination entries must be received at a local participating VFW Post by the Oct. 31 deadline.

Looking to share updated information and materials on VFW's Voice of Democracy, Patriot's Pen and Teacher Award programs? Share our National Scholarship Brochure (coming soon) with the students and educators in your community.


And the 2023 Teachers of the Year are ...


TOTY Elementary Winner

Kelly Garey, a retired Navy veteran and second grade teacher at Van Buren Elementary School in Caldwell, Idaho, has been selected to receive its 2023 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the elementary school level. Sponsored by VFW Post 3886 in Caldwell, she was chosen for her dedication to fostering patriotism, passion for serving her country and local community, and for her continued efforts to organize field trips, activities and services to help her students learn about and recognize America’s veterans and their military service. Garey, a native of Meridian, Idaho, whose careers in the Navy Reserves and education has spanned more than 30 years, uses her military experience to help her students and community understand why veterans serve, the true spirit of freedom and the rich history of our nation’s flag. From expanding STEM access beyond the classroom and spearheading drug prevention programs to establishing programs that connect students with the military and veteran communities, her work ethic and passion are as strong today as they were when she started her teaching career 33 years ago.

TOTY Middle School Winner
Susan Allgood, a seventh grade language arts and eighth grade ELA teacher at Stephens County Middle School in Toccoa, Georgia, has been selected to receive its 2023 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the middle school level. A native of Martin, Georgia, and sponsored by VFW Post 4346 in Toccoa, Georgia, she was chosen for her dedication to ensuring her students understand their duty to our country while honoring the service and memory of America’s veterans. With two sons on active duty in the military, Allgood understands firsthand how important connecting the military and veterans communities with today’s youth is. Not only is she dedicated to ensuring every student in her school is encouraged to participate in the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen patriotic essay contest, Allgood introduces novels and biographies about veterans, the military and our nation’s history into her curriculum. Along with examining the devastation and aftermath of 9/11, she has organized field trips to New York to help inspire and remind her students that what they do and the difference they can make matters.  
TOTY High School Winner
Javier Martinez, a Marine Corps veteran and high school history teacher at Kaneland High School in Maple Park, Illinois, has been selected to receive its 2023 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the high school level. A native of Elburn, Illinois, and sponsored by VFW Post 5819 in Lemont, Illinois, he was chosen for the passion and innovation he brings to his classroom, his efforts toward the development and enrichment of his student’s character, and for his dedication to bringing history to life. A 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps, Martinez’s military service provides valuable insight when teaching his students the fundamentals of our democracy, the significance of our nation’s history, and the role their civic responsibility plays in the success and future of our nation.