Home Education and Careers St. John the Beloved teacher Ray Costello connects to WWI history

St. John the Beloved teacher Ray Costello connects to WWI history

World War I
Ray Costello, a sixth-grade teacher at St. John the Beloved School, is spending the fall semester studying World War I. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — While teaching ancient civilizations to his sixth-graders at St. John the Beloved School, Ray Costello is partaking in a little education of his own.
Costello, in his second year at the Wilmington school, is among a handful of teachers from across the country to participate in a National History Day program studying World War I. One educator from each state was awarded a scholarship to analyze various aspects of the war through a series of webinars throughout the first semester of this academic year.
Costello has been receiving material about the aspects of the war included in the series. Every few weeks, he gathers virtually with his peers to discuss what they have read.
“Down the road, toward the end of it, they have you create some kind of teaching tool or strategy that you can use in the classroom. It could be for anybody to use who’s teaching U.S. history,” Costello said last week at St. John the Beloved.
His interest in World War I stems from “the role of the United States in that war, how we kept declaring neutrality for the first couple of years before we actually entered the war.”
The first module was causes of the war, followed by the role of women, that of African-Americans, and the soldier’s experience. For the segment on women in the war, for example, Costello read about a woman who was a telephone operator with the Signal Corps. He received a copy of her diary to read through.
During his latest topic, he has learned about the bravery and excitement some women possessed and their eagerness to serve on or near the front lines.
“You think of women a hundred years ago, you think of them in the kitchen cooking dinner,” Costello said. “But that was not the case for a lot of women.”
Costello, a graduate of Moravian College, has a ready explanation for his students who might not appreciate history the way he does.
“The way I try to explain it to them is it’s where we came from. Everything we experience in life came from that, or someone else experienced that before, and we learned from it. If not for history, we’d be making the same mistakes over again, so we learn from our mistakes,” he said.
One of the ways he tries to engage his students in the subject is to make use of primary sources, using technology when possible. The class looks at pictures of people from whatever time period they are studying, and they analyze journals and diaries, for example.
“It’s harder to do with ancient civilization, but with U.S. history, it’s pretty easy,” he said.
Costello, who spent a year teaching at Good Shepherd School in Perryville, Md., said he has another goal. He is checking out a program that accepts 20 to 25 teachers for a weeklong trip to Europe over the summer to study an as yet undetermined topic. It’s all-expenses paid as well.
“That would be awesome,” he said.