Note: This page is being updated throughout the program with highlights and photos from each school’s NEA Big Read Day. SCROLL DOWN for features from each secondary school as they take place. A full calendar of Toms River NEA Big Read events taking place throughout February and March can be found here.
Feb. 22, 2019-- Toms River Regional Schools’ second NEA Big Read campaign kicked off Jan. 23 at East Dover Elementary School, continued with an extraordinary poetry festival last week, and has now progressed to its scheduled NEA Big Read Days at each secondary school. This year’s literacy program is based on the Vietnam War novel The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
Due to inclement weather Wednesday, Intermediate East’s Big Read Day was rescheduled for Feb. 26, so Intermediate South became the first secondary school to host. Led by its media specialist Joe Benshetler, English teachers, and many others, the school hosted local Vietnam veteran Jeff Shapiro, who will serve as a guest speaker at each intermediate school.
Shapiro received his draft notice in December of 1967 when he was 19 years old. After serving his tour of duty in Vietnam, he returned home and decided to continue his education, graduating from Seton Hall University with a BA in education and later his MA from Georgian Court College. Shapiro taught physical education for almost 40 years at Clark School Elementary in Lakewood and only recently retired. In addition to teaching, he coached football and basketball at Lakewood High School. He still remains active as supervisor of Parks and Recreation in Lakewood.
A war hero as well as a caring friend, dedicated father, supportive husband, and loving grandfather, Shapiro engaged Intermediate South students with stories about his involvement in Vietnam, a history of the era, and personal anecdotes.
"Every soldier will have a story," said Shapiro, who wrote his own journal on Vietnam but never published it because "I wrote it for me."
"Of the 350 men that left for that tour that day, only 115 returned," he said. "We fought so you could have an opinion. Please don’t disrespect the soldier."
"Vietnam is a beautiful country," Shapiro said. "Vietnam people are beautiful people."
In addition to this discussion, the media center at IS also displayed the Vietnam-era traveling trunk, on loan from the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation for this program. Filled with historic items like draft cards, propaganda flyers, buttons, and much more, the trunk will travel to Intermediate North tomorrow, IE next week, and then the high schools.
Additional photos from Intermediate South's NEA Big Read Day are below, all courtesy of yearbook advisor Riki Stone.