Greetings from Southern California!

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    • #31734

      Greetings from Temecula, California (southern CA, about an hour from San Diego). My name is Lisa Balka, and I am beyond honored to work alongside each one of you throughout the upcoming year. I have been living in California since 2001, but I am originally from Indiana, and I will always consider myself a Midwestern girl. I am very blessed with my family of five. I married my high school sweetheart, and we will be celebrating our 32nd anniversary this July. We have a 26 year old daughter who is a nurse in Long Beach, a 24 year old daughter who is a technology sales rep in Chicago, and fortunately, a 14 year old is in 9th grade. So grateful to still have one at home to keep us young!

      I have been a middle/high school teacher for 21 years. I work at a high school of 3,200 students where I teach IB English, 10th Grade English, and a leadership course. I have incorporated Holocaust education into every one of my courses. In fact, I had originally been teaching Pre-AP 9 since we had opened the school in 2004, but last year I switched to regular 10 when the district moved Elie Wiesel’s Night into the 10th grade curriculum. My passion for Holocaust studies initiated early in my career, and I continue to dedicate myself to growing my expertise and bringing my knowledge into the classroom. I was most excited to recently gain board approval on a new text for our IB curriculum titled, Auschwitz and After, allowing me to now include Holocaust education in my 11th grade classes where the IB focus is global issues.

      My thirst for knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust can never be quenched. I have been so fortunate to have been a part of such extraordinary opportunities which have forever changed my life, not only as a professional, but as a human being. In 2017 I participated in the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program, a 2 week study abroad program in Germany and Poland focusing on historical context of the Holocaust with a special concentration in Jewish resistance. This opened my eyes to a completely different area of focus I had not yet been exposed to. During this time I had also begun my Master’s in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College. I began research for my thesis focusing on Jewish Resistance and its representation (or lack of in some) in museums in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and DC and developing materials for teachers to use to ensure their focus on a topic too often omitted in classroom Holocaust units. In 2019 I became a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow.

      During my time in Poland and Germany, our instructors explained how the more we learn, the less we will understand. I continue to read, watch documentaries, visit museums, and I know that I am more confused than ever. But I do know this… that I am an educator, that I am dedicated to the study of the Holocaust, and that such knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust comes with a certain responsibility. I must ensure that the youth of today understand the effects of hatred, bigotry, abuse of power, and propaganda so that such atrocities NEVER happen again. I am forever committed to this cause. And let me say, the fight is very real in my school district right now. Very dangerous times indeed.

      So excited to meet you all this summer!!

    • #31751

      Hello, Lisa!

      I really have been shifting my Holocaust focus with middle schoolers into the elements of the Jewish Resistance and it has brought me so much. I feel that this is an angle that most don’t expect when exploring the Holocaust, but it is so truly remarkable. You are correct–the more I read and study, the less I know. Wild. I so look forward to meeting in person in a few short weeks. Take care!


    • #31844

      Hi Lisa! It is so great to be able to call myself a fellow Gratz graduate. I loved when you told me about your final graduate work with multiple museums. I cannot wait to catch up with you in NYC.

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