In late November, Frederick County Public Schools presented Urbana High School (UHS) teacher Fritz Baclawski with the Veteran in Education Service award.
“It was a surprise,” said Baclawski, who has taught social studies at Urbana High since 2000.
Now in its second year, nine military veteran teachers who demonstrated exemplary service to FCPS and the community attended a Veterans Day ceremony at the FCPS main office in Frederick. The nominees were chosen for their integrity and trustworthiness, perseverance in overcoming challenges, selflessness in helping others, and teamwork and loyalty.
Weeks after the ceremony, Superintendent Theresa Alban and FCPS Secondary Social Studies Curriculum Specialist Colleen Bernard first presented the finalist award to Baclawski at UHS. “He participated in curriculum-writing workshops for many years and has left an indelible mark on our program,” said Colleen Bernard in a statement to FCPS. “He routinely enriches his students’ understanding and learning.”
Once stationed in Louisiana and at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, during times of peace, Baclawski served as US Army Honor Guard and First Presidential Marching Platoon between 1974 and 1977. Also a son of WWII veterans, Baclawski commented on the impact that serving our nation has had.
“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. You build a camaraderie in the military that is rare in other organizations,” he said.
You are serving something besides yourself. It builds confidence because you learn and try things you haven’t done before. It also gives you a perspective on the reality of the world that many Americans don’t understand.”
Baclawski worked for 20 years in the private sector for Dart Drug/Home Center and later with Duron Paints where he was eventually promoted to corporate headquarters to help run operations for 160 stores in seven states and Washington, DC. After many years coaching his daughters’ youth sports teams, in 1996 Baclawski returned to school at age 44 to earn his third degree at the University of Maryland with a BA in Social Studies Education.
“God was whispering in my ear every couple of months, ‘become a teacher,’ so when a good opportunity came up, I took it,” Baclawski said. “When you have that kind of prodding, you leave most of the hesitancy in his hands. I also liked learning, so it was interesting to learn new things.” Baclawski said that teaching has been the most intense career he has ever had.
“When I was in the Army, I was in the infantry. If I had been getting shot at that would have been more intense than teaching, but we were at peace. With teaching you have to be knowledgeable about your subject matter, about how to teach, about how to manage a class, be organized and efficient.”
As part of his work as a FCPS social studies teacher, he helped develop the county’s WWII high school elective class, which Bernard said is “one of our most popular social studies electives.”
Like serving in the armed forces, Baclawski said that teaching has provided him an opportunity to serve others, and to provide leadership and guidance to young people who are striving to grow up and find themselves. “You try to be a role model for them,” he said.
Outside teaching and working UHS sporting events one to two times per week during the school year, Baclawski participates with his church and maintains his passion for history that he said began in childhood. “I actually do history for fun,” he said.
Now a Frederick County resident for more than 30 years, Baclawski reads history books about WWII, interviews veterans, conducts research at the National Archives, George C. Marshall Library and other facilities, and travels to museums and other historical sites both domestically and throughout Europe.
The Board of Education recognized Baclawski during its November meeting, where he received a gift sponsored by Woodsboro Bank and an engraved plaque. In addition to Baclawski, nominees were Pamela Adams-Campbell, Andy Brown, David Goto, Tambuzi Pannell, Dr. Christine Samuels, Dr. Edward Schoder, Brian Smith and Charles Welch.
“Kudos and thanks to Woodsboro Bank and FCPS for recognizing American Vets,” said Baclawski. “It is nice to have the recognition, but I have found over my 19 years at Urbana that most teachers are self-motivated. They are there to help the kids and our satisfaction comes from that.”