March can be a tough time of year for teachers. The kids are tired. Teachers are tired. The routine has become a bit mundane.
But for FCS teacher alumna, Heidi Montague Sloan, and her 5th grade students, March is something to look forward to. The Last Great Race®! And next school year this event will take on a whole new meaning for her students, because Heidi will not be teaching from her classroom, but on the Iditarod Trail as the 2018 Teacher on the Trail™.
The Last Great Race®, or the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, began in 1973 by Joe Redington Sr. and runs from Settler’s Bay to Nome, Alaska. As snow mobiles became popular and were replacing the sled dog, Joe wanted to preserve the sled dog tradition and the history of the Iditarod Trail. The trail had been used for gold mining supplies, food, and to carry US mail when the roads became iced over during the winter months. Mushers still carry a mail bag with them on the 1,049-mile trail. The last 49 miles was added to the race to represent the 49th state of Alaska.
For years Heidi has integrated curriculum from the Iditarod into her regular curriculum. Her students follow the race each day. She integrates math, language arts and history lessons as they follow along with the Teacher on the Trail™.
Each school year one teacher is chosen. Only one. What Heidi had never imagined is that in 2018 she would be that Teacher!
Heidi started her teaching career at Fredericksburg Christian School fresh out of college. She was hired by the founders of FCS, Gary and Andy Foss. After 5 1/2 years of teaching she took time away from the classroom to have a family. When she returned to teaching she went to the Stafford County Public School system and has been teaching there for 15 years. She attributes her success as a teacher to the early training and mentoring she received from the Foss’ in her early teaching years at FCS. “It really shaped who I am now,” says Heidi.
Being chosen as the teacher for The Last Great Race® doesn’t wait until March – she will begin her position in June. Part of her responsibilities include creating curriculum that is shared with teachers around the country, and the world, beginning this summer. Thousands of classrooms across the nation all participate in this annual project. Teachers have the option of integrating the program throughout the entire school year. “This is also great for homeschoolers,” says Heidi. This makes a great unit study.
During the actual race in March, Heidi will fly up to Alaska and attend the race. She will be there to report and Skype with classrooms about the race as it happens. Flying from checkpoint to checkpoint on a small bush plane, Heidi will be able to show the ins and outs of what goes on behind the scenes. She will talk to the mushers, visit the towns and villages on the trail, and bring a cultural experience to the students watching.
Becoming the official Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™ is a big honor. When asked what the application process was like Heidi said, “It was very long and involved. It took from June to December 1st.”After all the paperwork, and I mean paperwork, was done three finalists were flown to Alaska to meet with the Iditarod education team. They toured, were interviewed, made presentations at an Iditarod teacher conference, and were watched every minute. There were people assigned to the candidates to simply watch what they did and how they interacted with other people. All of this was recorded and given to the application team for review. On March 30, 2017, Heidi got her news – she had been chosen. “I have a passion for this. I feel God has brought me this far. It’s not just about the Iditarod. Who knows who I will touch or reach out to while I am there.”
If you are a teacher, homeschooling parent, or just a parent, you are welcome to follow Heidi on her Iditarod adventure. Or email Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would love to hear from you!
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You never know how much influence you may have on a person. Or how many people or cultures that could be impacted by that influence. This is the case with Jesse Zimmerman ’07, who has settled 3,400 miles away from his hometown of Fredericksburg, VA.
A J Addison’s (’13) story started out like many others – he was struggling in school and his future wasn’t looking bright. His mother made a decision that will forever change his life.
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Caleb Eames graduated from FCS in 1995, and nearly 21 years later, he still believes that Fredericksburg Christian School was the most influential step that prepared him for his future. In his experience, FCS prepares leaders, and the course of his future was shaped by this FCS commitment.
In his words, “We are living in a time when our nation needs leaders and FCS is the kind of school that delivers on that promise…FCS is “leaders grooming leaders.”
Capt. Eames currently serves as the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Butler, Okinawa, Japan. He anticipates additional education stateside in the coming months that will help him to continue growing in the field he has become passionate about. FCS provided him with “the best possible foundation,” to see him through many diverse experiences in his career to this point. While assigned as a Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Specialist (called an “NBC”), he was sent to ground zero in the aftermath of 9/11. Other service locations have included Iraq, Africa, and Asia, where the single constant in his life was not location, but the imperative to “be a witness”– a lifestyle that was cemented during his time at FCS.
While serving in the military and stationed in Iraq, Caleb became passionate about spreading the word about the work of our armed forces. While there, he witnessed important stories that didn’t translate properly from the battlefield to the news. Seeing this disconnect led him to make a career shift toward public affairs. Shortly after that, he received a commission enabling him to make public affairs his focus.
Throughout his service, family has been another constant. His three children, ages 2, 7 and 10, have learned to live their faith in the same way that Caleb experienced while in school. For Caleb and his wife Monette, mission work has been a lifestyle. The whole family has enjoyed trips around the region, especially their opportunities to serve in the Philippines.
A favorite mission experience happened one Christmas as the family worked in an orphanage. The lesson of thankfulness was well taught with simple holiday gifts — the children received just a washcloth for Christmas that year. His children received the same gift as the children living in the orphanage.
His time at FCS is what helped prepare Caleb for this incredible journey, and he still looks back on his time there for inspiration. Caleb started at FCS when he was in the third grade. From that time, through his high school graduation, he vividly remembers teachers who were consistently caring and passionate. Some stand out teachers included Mrs. Raney and Dave Schlee.
Mrs. Raney provided English instruction for juniors and seniors. These English classes were very demanding but were also instrumental in helping Caleb prepare to excel in college. Caleb also remembers the impact that Dave Schlee had on his life. Mr. Schlee led students on a journey through history from a Christian worldview and taught Bible classes where Caleb developed a greater appreciation and understanding of scripture.
FCS combines a strong commitment to academic excellence with an equally strong commitment to values and mentorship. Technology is an integral part of the curriculum, along with an understanding of the dangers and benefits of a technological society. Every lesson incorporates a biblical interpretation, bringing faith into academics. By prioritizing integrity, hard work, and leadership, FCS works to graduate strong leaders with a moral and biblical foundation.
Caleb believes that the learning environment at Fredericksburg Christian School is important to the development of faith. He describes an experience where faith was not just an intellectual focus, but was also lived in the classroom and during extracurricular experiences. Having the opportunity to participate in missionary work during his school years made a real impact, and helped prepare him for the diverse communities and nations in which he has served.