Shaler Area junior teaches classmates military history

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

After introducing a few key points in World War II history, Shaler Area High School social-studies teacher Jim McDermott yielded the floor to junior Areon Metz who took over the lesson.

Metz, 17, of Shaler Township has taught lessons in World War I and World War II history in McDermott's American history classes for the past three years after McDermott recognized his vast military history knowledge during Metz' freshman year.

“It was clear he knew more than I did about the military aspect, so I decided to take advantage of it,” said McDermott, whose interest and focus is on the home front. “He's an encyclopedia of military knowledge.”

McDermott invited Metz to teach a lesson as a guest speaker, and the experience was so successful that McDermott has asked him to return each year to present a lesson in his history classes.

“There's always that one kid in class who knows military history, and I'll use them,” McDermott said. “It shows other kids I'm not the only one who's excited about this. Plus, it's boring to hear only one person's voice all the time.”

Metz can recall facts and figures about each campaign with ease after years of poring over historical books, military biographies and documentaries outside of the classroom.

“I find this to be interesting,” said Metz, who started his research about six years ago. “You can do extra to expand your knowledge outside of the classroom.”

Metz's fascination with military history began after he learned about the Civil War in elementary school and since then, he has studied military history from the Spanish-American War to the current conflicts.

Military history also has a personal connection for Metz, whose father served from 1990 to 1994 as a submariner based in Norfolk, Va. on the USS Sunfish and grandfather served in the 2nd and 3rd Armored Division with Elvis Presley, after being drafted in 1958.

Outside of school, Metz collects military memorabilia and period firearms and has aspirations to go into the military or be a history teacher or both.

“I believe this is Areon's sport,” McDermott said. “It's neat to see someone like him get so involved, find(ing) something you have a spark about, and Areon found this.”

Earlier this month, Metz presented detailed information, photographs and memorabilia related to the Battle of Stalingrad to the invasion of North Africa and Sicily and Italian campaigns to McDermott's honors American history classes.

“Teachers are expected to know, but a student knowing it is a little more impressive,” said ninth-grader Sage Wilson.

“It was cool to hear from a person my age in a way that was easier to understand,” ninth-grader Lyndsey Lakatos said after the class. “I feel kids listen to other kids better than adults.”

After each lesson, McDermott opens the floor for students to ask Metz war-history questions and offers a free homework pass to anyone who can stump Metz.

“In the past three years, no one has,” McDermott said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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