Her students normally see Minchon Lince walking up the and down the rows of seats in the classroom five days a week as she teaches them social studies at Riverview Community High School.
She assigns them papers to write, and they groan and roll their eyes, like students everywhere. But Lince is more than a commonplace teacher, and her classroom is more than ordinary.
Often, especially when she encourages her kids to talk about current events, they really think about the subjects at hand, light up and participate. And when they talk about wars in class— an inevitable part of learning about American and world history — she invites veterans to come talk to the students, to share experiences first-hand about their military service and about the issues that affected them when they came home.
Lince, who since 2001 has been teaching in Riverview, where she herself grew up and went to school, is appreciated by her students — and by the veterans who are members of the VFW, as well.
“Over the years, this remarkable teacher has had numerous former students return to visit her,” wrote David Beauchamp, a member of VFW Post 1136 in Wyandotte and chairman of the post’s annual Voice of Democracy contest. “They tell her how much they loved her class and how wonderful of a teacher she is.”
He wrote those words in a letter nominating Lince for the Voice of Democracy Teacher of the Year contest. She won the honor for District 4, and then she went on to be named VFW Teacher of the Year for the entire state of Michigan.
She’ll advance to national competition in April.
“Students from Ms. Lince’s class have expressed the importance of learning our Constitution and freedom it grants all of us, a privilege that most other countries do not have,” Beauchamp wrote.
The contest also honors students, who first write a two-page paper assigned by Lince on the theme the VFW has chosen for that year, and then — if students choose to go further — they record a video of themselves reading their essays. That video is judged by VFW members.
“I usually have between 40 and 50 entrants every year,” Lince said. “I ask them if they want to go above and beyond.”
Or students can enter the contest through artwork illustrating the theme, she said. Her kids don’t always win, although she had one win twice at the district level and go on to state competition.
But it’s about learning more than winning.
“Out of all the disciplines in school, I think it’s social studies that really targets the character of the kids,” Lince said. “It’s about the things that make students reflect on themselves and world and not repeat the mistakes. I think these kids are more in tune with current events than I was as a teenager.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at Albion College, her teaching certificate at Eastern Michigan University and her master’s in teaching and learning through Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
As a college student in 1988, she spent four months in the Middle East, studying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and in 1989, she completed Officer Candidate School for the U.S. Marine Corps in Quantico, Va. She declined her commission after graduating.
“At first, she questioned her decision, but after just a few years of teaching, she knows she made the correct decision,” Beauchamp wrote.