DERRY — For longtime Pinkerton Academy science teacher Brewster Bartlett, being named the 2013 high school teacher of the year by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1617 is about more than what he's accomplished in the classroom.
Bartlett said he believes part of the reason he was named Teacher of the Year by the VFW is because of his role in keeping alive the memory of the US Army's 10th Mountain Division in the mountains of New Hampshire.
Bartlett's father, Warren, was a member of the 10th Mountain Division, which trained on skis and fought in some of the most dangerous and mountainous terrain in Italy during World War II.
Fifteen years ago, Bartlett's father began a memorial in the woods of his 100-acre property in Lancaster to those who served in the division during World War II. As his father grew older, Bartlett took on a greater role keeping the memory of those veterans alive. His father passed away two years ago.
"Those men all did wonders for the ski areas in New England, including Attitash and Loon, and now those men are all getting older," said Bartlett. "The veterans used to run the meetings, but now it is up to the descendants."
Each July, a memorial service is held on the property in Lancaster, and a cross is planted for each member of the division who died during the previous year.
"There are 93 crosses on the land now with the plants and trees," said Bartlett. "My dad started with four of them for his friends from World War II."
Bartlett said his family will continue to hold the memorial services as long as there are survivors or their descendants who make the trek to Lancaster each summer.
However, Bartlett's honor from the VFW is about much more than what he does for veterans; it's also about what he has done for his students over the course of 41 years at Pinkerton Academy.
Bartlett has been at the forefront of a number of environmental initiatives at the school, including some that are well into their third decades.
"In the early '80s, we started the beach cleanup in Rye in September, and now we're working with Kohl's in Salem to do another beach cleanup," said Bartlett.
He has played a crucial role in the Students for Environmental Action group at the high school, including helping to start a shoe project where used shoes are collected, cleaned and shipped to Africa.
Bartlett is constantly looking at ways to make the school more green, whether it is through campaigning for waterless toilets in the new Academy building or setting up a program to make sure computers in the computer lab are shut down every night.
And while Bartlett has been teaching for 41 years, he is far from one to remain set in his ways, embracing the latest technology and trying to keep pace with his students.
"I've seen the changes from chalkboards to whiteboards to smart boards," said Bartlett. "You've got to keep up with technology. If you don't, you're not going to relate to the kids."
In addition to the greater reliance on technology over the past decade, Bartlett said he has also seen a heartening increase in collaboration among students.
"Students are working together and communicating more," he said. "It's really a change for most subject areas."
Bartlett said he has no plans to slow down either inside or outside of the classroom.
"People ask me when I'm going to retire," he said. "I say, why should I when I still enjoy it."