The week-long trip will help enhance history courses and lectures for students.
Kelly Lankford, associate lecturer of history for the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (LSMSA), travelled abroad this summer to visit World War I memorials in Normandy, France.
Supported for by the LSMSA Foundation’s Richard G. Brown Fund for Faculty Advancement, Lankford made the trip in order to provide students in her classes a more accurate representation of the war.
“I currently teach classes on World War I, a Post Civil War American History survey class, and a Women’s History Course,” said Lankford. “It’s already been relevant and beneficial for several of the lessons I have taught in these courses.”
Lankford embarked on a professionally-led tour of battlefield sites across Normandy. During her one-week trip, she was able to visit the Somme, the Lochnager Crater, the Newfoundland Memorial, and several sites at Ypres, Arras and Fromelle.
“I had learned that some battles that I had previously dismissed before are now more important than I had realized,” said Lankford. “I now get to show students photos of landscapes I saw and memorials I originally didn’t know had existed.
“I’m also now able to explain how relevant this war still is for France, more so than for Americans. Americans don’t think about WWI in the same way that other countries do.”
While in France, Lankford was also able to visit other historic sites including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris.
She stated that a lot of her trip was eye-opening and will inform future lessons for her students. For example, the trip helped her realize the impact that Australian citizens had during the war and the significance the war still has in the country.
“There was a lot of Australian history and significance that I had previously downplayed during my lessons. I had originally associated them with a particular part of the war, but then I realized that they had a much larger presence in the war after the battle of Somme.
“Because of this, many Australians make pilgrimages of these sites. If they know they are going to a WWI battlefield, they are taught to carry around flags and place them at the graves of unknown soldiers to show respect.”
Of all of her experiences, Lankford expressed that her favorite was being able to witness the Menin Gate Ceremony, which has been performed every night in Ypres, Belgium since the 1920s.
“It’s a ceremony for those who died during WWI in that area,” said Lankford. “Every night, either the local fire department or a special musical group will play a military song called ‘Last Post.’ They shut down this main street in the city, everyone gets really still, and they do this really formal ceremony. It was very moving.”
The LSMSA Foundation’s Brown Fund is allocated for the professional development of LSMSA staff and faculty. Money from this fund can be used toward conferences, educational trips, specialized classes and certification programs, all with the intent of providing staff with the most up-to-date and reliable resources for teaching students.
Professional development opportunities like this are made possible through the generous support of foundation donors. For more information on the foundation and how to support LSMSA, visit https://www.LSMSA.edu/foundation.