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Dorseyville teacher proudly wears patriotism

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Todd Ashbaugh
Todd Ashbaugh

Dorseyville Middle School planned to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on Wednesday, Sept. 11, by having someone carrying the flag all day around the school track.

During the last period, all the students planned to join the procession with flags.

“It's important to recognize the anniversary of that date. It's our duty as American citizens,” Todd Ashbaugh says.

Ashbaugh, a social studies teacher, got the idea from the running of the flag, which started in North Park and carried through to Shanksville.

He says the event at Dorseyville would be “moving” in a variety of ways — including providing the students an opportunity to show their patriotism.

“It will mean something to those kids because that's our job as teachers. It's our generation's Pearl Harbor,” Todd says.

The seventh-grade teacher points out some of today's middle school students weren't born in 2001 and may not have seen video clips of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.

Because the videos are not appropriate for all ages, Todd says teachers use their discretion when deciding how to teach their students about 9/11.

“They can still explain and talk about the gravity of the situation,” he said. “The lessons need to be appropriate. (The students) need to be aware.”

Todd remembers his feelings that day.

“A sick feeling started to grow — not knowing what else was going to happen,” he said. “I have a sister in (Washington) D.C. It was hard to keep it together in front of the kids.”

Being there for his students remains Todd's guiding principle.

“We're responsible for those kids,” he says.

Todd's curricular responsibility is teaching world history — Romans to the Renaissance.

In the classroom, he often draws comparisons between other cultures and the U.S. He notes, for example, many Roman symbols are part of American culture.

The Valley native not only teaches American culture but also waves the flag proudly.

His grandfather was a World War II prisoner of war for a year-and-a-half. His father served in Vietnam.

“I've always been patriotic,” he says. “I think about how lucky we are here.”

Todd supports Team Red, White and Blue, an organization dedicated to returning veterans.

In fact, this organization seeded his idea for Dorsey-ville's flag carrying event.

Todd's volunteer efforts have been vast.

He organizes a New Year's day dip in the Allegheny River at Kittanning in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society; he's run in the Tough Mother Poconos and raised $1,300 for the Wounded Warrior Project; and he's lasted out a marathon to raise $1,000 for the Fallen Patriot Fund.

He continues training for triathlons, getting up at 4 a.m. to prepare.

With the early morning fitness routine done, he saves after-school time for his wife and young children.

Todd has developed into a reader. He enjoys turning the pages of historical fiction as way to relax.

“It's helped me as a teacher, always learning,” Todd says.

His commitment to teaching helps today's students learn about how the past has impacted their present.

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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