WWII Summer Teacher Institute Team Pacific: Day One Dispatch

Studying the war in the Pacific with The National WWII Museum.

WWII Summer Teacher Institute

Members of the inaugural class of the Museum’s WWII Summer Teacher Institute—Team Pacific—are in Hawaii this week to complete their year of participation in the program. These 30 middle school and high school teachers from around the country came to the Museum in summer 2016 to study World War II in the Pacific with historian and author Richard B. Frank. Each was provided a Museum-created curriculum guide in exchange for a commitment to share its content and the lessons they’d learned with teachers in their hometown. So far, those lessons have been shared with more than 1,000 teachers. The Institute’s second class—Team Europe—will assemble in New Orleans in a few days to study World War II in Europe with Donald L. Miller, PhD, then reconvene next summer for a week of study in Normandy, France. 

Team Pacific is sending daily dispatches about their experiences in Hawaii. Here’s a Day One report from Angel Ledbetter, a high school teacher from North Carolina and member of the Summer Teacher Institute inaugural class:  

As a history teacher, my goal is to help my students understand the reality of the past. Starting the day at Iolani Palace and Aliiolani Hale, standing where Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned after her overthrow, and learning about the effects of martial law on the islands during World War II, provided me with insights that will help me do just that.

Coming face-to-face with some of the ugliest chapters in our history—including our role in the dissolution of the Hawaiian monarchy and curtailment of constitutional liberties—takes a commitment to honoring the past that runs throughout Hawaiian culture. The loss of the kingdom (and subsequently the erosion of the native culture) and the racial tension that divided the island during World War II could have broken these islands. And yet, they didn’t. 

Instead, as the day progressed we learned just how resilient and proud the Hawaiian people are. We learned lessons about sacrifice and duty at Kualoa Ranch, where more than 600 acres of land was given to the US federal government to serve as a critical airfield during World War II. The tour was sprinkled with tidbits about famous movies filmed there, providing a further glimpse into the magic of the islands. 

Coupled with an amazing lunch discussion with a tour guide filled with passion for preserving and promoting Hawaiian language and history, the day left me with no doubt that the Hawaiian spirit is stronger, prouder, and more welcoming than I could have imagined.

Visit ww2classroom.org to see the WWII Summer Teacher Institute curriculum guide content.

Special thanks to the David I. Oreck Foundation and the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation for their generous support of this program.