This summer, three Tulsa-area teachers attended professional development experiences in order to enhance their teaching of the Holocaust with support from the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and the Council for Holocaust Education.
Alisha Kirk, who teaches English Language Arts at Sapulpa Junior High School, attended the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program (HAJRTP) 2017 Summer Seminar from June 27-July 11. The seminar was initiated by Vladka Meed in 1984 and provides an intensive two-week summer learning and living experience in Germany and Poland for U.S. secondary school teachers who are committed to teaching about the Holocaust and Jewish resistance in their classes upon completion of the program. Each year, the group of approximately 24 teachers visits historic sites and hears from survivors and prominent scholars.
HAJRTP goals are to advance education in schools about the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance; to deepen teachers’ knowledge and strengthen their ability to implement Holocaust studies in their classrooms; to teach each new generation about the Holocaust and Jewish resistance, so that they will know, understand, and never forget; and to further educational activities which use the lessons of the past as warnings for the present and the future. The curriculum covers the following topics: anti-Semitism in Europe, the outbreak of World War II, life in the ghettos and the camps, “The Final Solution,” armed resistance and revolt, spiritual resistance, reaction of the free world, the Holocaust in literature and art, post-war impact of the Holocaust, and present-day anti-Semitism.
Two other teachers attended the 2017 Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Conference for Educators at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. designed for middle and high school educators and community college faculty. The 2017 conference was held in two sessions: the first, from July 19-21, was designed for English language arts educators; the second, from July 23-25, was for social studies educators.
Candice Pierce, English Language Arts teacher from Thoreau Middle School in Tulsa, attended the ELA session, and Christina Henson, Holocaust Studies teacher from Jenks High School, was the Tulsa representative at the social studies session. At the conference, Museum educators and scholars share rationales, strategies, and approaches for teaching about the Holocaust. Participants have the opportunity to tour the Museum’s Permanent Exhibition, as well as the special exhibitions “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story” and “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration & Complicity in the Holocaust,” and to explore the Museum’s full range of resources. Those who completed the conference received a set of educational materials from the Museum. In addition to these activities, this year’s Belfer keynote presentation was given by author Wendy Holden and survivor Hana Berger Moran of Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope.
Cassie Nodine, the Director of Holocaust Education at the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, says of quality Holocaust professional learning experiences, “Holocaust education can easily be linked to character education, civic engagement, and the kind of people students are – or can be—in all subject areas. That is where its power lies: it engages students intellectually while also appealing to their hearts.” As educators, Kirk, Pierce, and Henson understand it is their responsibility to ensure their students not only understand what happened in the past, but use this knowledge to develop empathy and a dedication to creating a more just, ethical, and compassionate world. Holocaust education presents the unique opportunity to contemplate difficult questions about human nature while challenging students to consider their own choices as they learn about an important period in history.
All three teachers presented about their summer learning experiences at the 2017 Eva K. Unterman Summer Institute for Holocaust Education on July 27 and 28 in order to inspire other area teachers to take advantage of these powerful and beneficial professional learning opportunities.