Erin Doupe

Recipient of the 2023 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching
November 14, 2023

John F. Ross Collegiate Vocational Institute, Guelph, Ontario

Erin Doupe led her high-school students through a local history project called The Story of a Soldier, which centred on the experiences of Guelph’s soldiers and their families during the First World War.

The students worked closely with attestation records, diaries, historical newspapers and secondary sources to trace the life of their selected service person. They corroborated evidence and contextualized their soldier’s experience, providing local examples of broad patterns and trends of wartime Canada.

The students paid special attention to their soldier’s next-of-kin, gleaning from the evidence insight into the lives of those who remained on the home front. Their investigations challenged many myths that surround Canada’s wartime experience and led to complex conversations about memory and historical significance. In addition, they explored themes related to public health, housing and urban development, and social policies following the First World War.

The students transformed their research into narrative stories, which they mailed with a cover letter to their soldier’s last known address. This resulted in rich community connections, as homeowners responded to the letters with appreciation and, sometimes, more information on the soldier who once lived there. The students made important contributions to their community’s historical record, learning the value of preserving the past for future generations.