Miller Middle School teacher to tour WWI sites in France

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Ann Jackson will represent Miller Middle School and Marshalltown when she visits France for a World War I memorial program this summer. She is one of 18 teachers set to go on the trip out of 334 applicants nationwide.

It’s been a century since the last shots of World War I were fired. A Marshalltown teacher has been chosen to tour memorial sites in France to help ensure students do not forget the Great War.

Miller Middle School Extended Learning Program teacher Ann Jackson will be one of a group of 18 American teachers on the professional development trip organized by National History Day. She was chosen out of more than 300 applicants nationwide to go on the trip.

“We’re at the century mark since World War I ended and it’s important to keep that history alive so we don’t repeat it,” Jackson said. “I’m very excited and very honored.”

The news of the upcoming trip this June follows last October’s announcement that Jackson would participate in another World War I-focused program from National History Day. That program saw Jackson awarded a scholarship for studying the war with the help of college professors and webinars.

This summer in France, Jackson will get to see many of the places she has learned about in her studies. The trip will include visits to the American cemeteries of Somme, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Oise-Aisne, Suresnes and Aisne Marne.

GOOGLE MAPS - Miller Middle School instructor Ann Jackson will visit several World War I memorial sites in France this summer. The sites are pinpointed in yellow and include several American cemeteries.

Additionally, Jackson will visit battle sites and monuments at Meuse Argonne, Belleau Wood and Verdun.

Another part of this year’s National History Day program is to research a service member from the war. Jackson chose American troop Pvt. Frederick Eckstrom as the person whose footsteps she wanted to follow while in France.

She said Eckstrom had moved to Marshalltown from his native Sweden in the early 20th century. He had only lived in Marshalltown four years when he decided to enlist in the military and fight for his new country.

“He wasn’t even a citizen of the country but he felt such obligation and loyalty to the United States that he decided to go serve in Europe,” Jackson said of Eckstrom. “When you think about the immigration history in the U.S. … just to give back that honor and recognition to him is important.”

As part of her research project, Jackson will write a eulogy for Eckstrom which she will read when she visits his grave site this summer.

“I know Ann’s been just heavily involved in the World War I research,” said Marshalltown Schools Communications Director Andrew Potter. “It’s just a great thing for our district and our students.”

As an XLP instructor, Jackson said she often helps her students with history projects. She said her experience this summer will help her develop ideas for projects with students.

Jackson also said her continued study on historical events is a lesson for her students in and of itself.

“It’s just modeling that lifelong learning is important to do,” she said. “Learning doesn’t end when you graduate or get a degree.”

Jackson is set to be in France on the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. That peace document was signed by the Allied powers and Germany on June 28, 1919 in France.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com