Letters Give RA Students Intimate Glimpse of WWII

Amy Dolan, a middle school history teacher at Ridgefield Academy, is known for designing creative ways for her students to experience history, from battle reenactments to historical debates. Although learning is now done remotely, this high level of engagement continues, especially when it comes to learning about WWII.

History students were offered an intimate glimpse of the Second World War through the personal letters written by Captain Stanley Rand, Jr., to his wife, Rachel. Stan and Rachel were the parents of Upper School Science Teacher Mac Rand.

Mac found this time capsule of correspondence as he and his brothers were cleaning out his mother’s home after her passing in 2003. The letters from his dad, who passed away in 1975, revealed a tender side of his father he never knew and offered a personal narrative of his wartime experiences.

Mac shared this incredibly personal experience with Grade 8 students through an online, multimedia presentation. Hand-written letters, archival images, and film clips were used to connect Captain Rand’s words to world history. Offline, the students were learning about the Battle of the Bulge and the movement of troops from Belgium to Germany. Mac read his father’s letters to the class, giving a first-hand account of entering Germany and witnessing the final months, weeks, and days of the war. The students were studying Stalingrad and experienced the Russian soldiers through Stan’s eyes. The students also learned about the things that were part of a US soldier’s daily life from the food and V Mail, to the Red Cross, and censorship.

“Through these letters, I got to meet my father in a new way and also learned amazing details about the War,” Mac told the students. Through the letters, the students were able to connect with an individual who was part of the “Greatest Generation” and have a deeply engaging experience as they learned about WWII.

After listening to the language of Captain Rand’s time, including the jargon and military slang, the eighth graders have been challenged to write their own letters about a WWII battle they have chosen to research.

The Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool community celebrates childhood, pursues excellence, and cultivates kindness. Our educational program is intellectually inspiring, and we foster joyful learning and mutual respect in all that we do. We empower each student to rise to their authentic self, preparing confident graduates who shape their future with ingenuity and integrity.