South Surrey teacher Lauren Teichrob holds the ‘death penny’

Retracing a Canadian soldier’s steps

Lauren Teichbrob travelling to Vimy Ridge as part of research project

When Lauren Teichrob visits Vimy Ridge in the next few days, she will be one step closer to piecing together the life of a Canadian soldier whose story has eluded her for more than a year.

The South Surrey teacher will be travelling to the memorial with a Historica-Dominion Institute program, which sends teachers from across the country to First and Second World War sites in France and Belgium that have historical significance to Canada.

All of the approximately 20 teachers going on the trip will be researching a soldier from one of the world wars.

The assignment is through Library and Archives Canada’s Lest We Forget Project, which releases the military files of soldiers who died on duty to those interested in learning more about the people who gave their lives for the country.

Teichrob – who teaches Grade 8 and 11 social studies at White Rock Christian Academy – had her senior class take part in the project earlier this year.

Each student was given a soldier’s military documents, and wrote a paper on what they learned about that person through the materials and additional research.

Teichrob said the process taught the students useful research skills that extend beyond Google searches, and made the war efforts more relatable to a generation far removed from the events.

“I’m a big believer in tangible, experiential learning for kids,” she said. “As they found out more about their soldier, it gained more meaning for them.”

Now, Teichrob is doing the project herself.

She was matched with Pte. John Wesley McMullen, a soldier in the 18th Battalion who was just 22 when he died at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.

Teichrob had little else to go on from the primary documents she received, which included McMullen’s attestation paper and will.

However, in what she called a “fateful” occurrence, Teichrob came across an online auction during her research that was releasing medals belonging to McMullen.

“They were put on auction at the exact time I was beginning to do this,” she said, noting the auctioneer was unable to disclose where they had come from.

Teichrob now has McMullen’s cap and collar badges; a Commonwealth medal; a medal from King George; a “death penny,” which would’ve been issued after his death; and a condolence letter from Buckingham Palace.

When at Vimy Ridge, she plans to visit the mass grave he was buried in, Zivy Crater, and make an etching of McMullen’s memorial to show her students.

“When I come back and I have this to show the kids, it’s going to make (the war) so much more tangible and human, rather than facts and numbers that are sad, but don’t otherwise have meaning.”

This won’t be the first time Teichrob adds her own personal experiences to her curriculum.

In May, she participated in a program that brought teachers from all over B.C. to Victoria for four days to tour the legislature, meet MLAs, watch a question period and learn more about the government process.

Teichrob participated so she could better teach the subject to her students.

“I felt this was an area I wanted to improve in,” Teichrob said, noting she will present the topic differently in the future because of what she learned through the experience. “I think I got it in a new way I didn’t have, just in terms of vision and my own understanding of how government works.

“You have to have an appreciation of it in order for it to come to life.”

And, when Teichrob’s 13-day tour of war sites in France and Belgium wraps up, she plans to extend her trip to Auschwitz and Oskar Schindler’s factory in Poland and Hitler’s ‘Eagles Nest’ retreat in Austria.

“I’m trying to go to the places I teach,” she said. “I absolutely love the course but I think I will be a more effective teacher to share these experiences with the kids.”

Teichrob – who leaves July 2 – said one of the most surreal experiences will still be to stand at McMullen’s grave.

“It’s going to be… I’m not sure what it’s going to be like to stand there.”

She plans to frame the etching she takes of his memorial with his medals, and continue searching for more about his life.

Teichrob said she would love to find a picture of the soldier, as well as to track down any family members. She is currently working with a genealogist with the hopes of doing just that.

“I hope he does have living relatives and there can be a further story that comes from this.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Former worker at Surrey brewery claims he was bullied on the job

Human rights complaint to be heard against Surrey’s Central City Brewers and Distillers Ltd.

Families with dispute-resolution issues to get help in Surrey

Model was first introduced in Victoria in 2019

$2M for Surrey-made brain-health device will help open door to U.S. market

Financing from BDC strengthens HealthTech Connex’s ability ‘to positively impact a billion brains’

‘Magic Wheelchair’ book tells story of author’s Surrey-area granddaughters

Marlene Bryenton’s storybook explores how kids in wheelchairs are excluded because they are different

Two Surrey schools report COVID-19 exposures, including second contact for Panorama Ridge

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C.’s Chase Claypool catches first NFL touchdown pass

Abbotsford grad establishes new record for longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Mission poker player missing in Nevada is found alive and safe

Brad Booth went missing in July 13, found in mid September

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Most Read