Geography teacher Todd Nevin stood in front of the cheering student body at Castle Rock Middle School and smiled almost uncomfortably.
"Todd is an outstanding role model for our students," Principal Shaun Harrington told the group. "And he is VFW's Teacher of the Year."
Nevin was given the Veterans of Foreign Wars award at an all-school assembly Tuesday morning for his work sending care packages to troops overseas and raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Mr. Nevin, I want to thank you for all the time, effort and money you have put into care packages," said Gary Race, VFW district commander. "I want to thank you for what you do every day for your students."
Nevin has long been an advocate for active-duty military personnel and veterans. Behind his desk in his classroom hangs the black POW/MIA flag, which he uses to spark classroom conversations with his students about geography, foreign policy, military service and those who serve the country.
For years, he's led efforts at the school to gather and build care packages to send to troops overseas -- many of them relatives of the students and staff at Castle Rock.
This year, he organized a fundraising effort for the Wounded Warriors Project -- a group that supports veterans injured on the battlefield -- and raised $2,000 for the charity.
Joining Nevin at the assembly were much of his family, including his wife and two children, his parents and by video chat, a sister with her husband who are stationed at a military base in South Korea.
Military tradition is rooted deep in Nevin's family. Both his father and stepfather are war veterans and Nevin grew up in a culture of military service, which partly is what motivates his activism.
"At 18, 19 years old, I couldn't get to work on time and these guys are off fighting a war," he said.
He sees his efforts with his students as a small way to give back to troops for the service they've given.
"All the things that we do for the soldiers is one of the reasons I became a teacher," he said.
His efforts allow him to give back to the troops while creating new ways in which he can teach his class curriculum to his students.
Following Nevin's recognition, Race stood and asked Nevin's students to stand.
"If it wasn't for you," he told them, "what we're doing here for Mr. Nevin wouldn't be happening."
Race is commander of VFW District 3, which includes the southeast part of the state. From here, Nevin will be in contention for the state VFW Teacher of the Year award, which, if he wins, will put him in the running for the national title.
For Nevin, he said he was moved by the award and hopes that it will bring more attention to active-duty military and veterans.
"I was pretty overwhelmed," he said. "It means a lot to me."