Alabama Teachers Plant the Seed for More Effective Holocaust Education
Enithie Hunter and Lisa Light, 2010 Memorial Library summer seminar participants, share a passion for finding the most effective ways to teach about one of the darkest atrocities of the 20th-century, which translates into their work as teacher consultants for the Jacksonville State University Writing Project (JSUWP). This summer, Hunter and Light took what they have learned about Holocaust education and teaching for social justice and combined it with the reach of their local writing project. Drawing support from JSUWP, they created and facilitated a one-day seminar, “Teaching the Holocaust and Other Genocides in 21st-Century Classrooms.”
The two teachers wanted the event to provide Alabama area educators with information on teaching about the Holocaust and other genocides and to inform their community at large about the Holocaust. At the heart of their plans was the belief that text resources alone are not enough to communicate the effects of genocide. With support from the JSUWP and the JSU In-Service Center, Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor, delivered the morning keynote speech, “Signposts along the Road to Auschwitz.” In his speech Mr. Roth gave eye-witness testimony to the hate-fueling propaganda that ignited the Holocaust and challenged attendees to compare current world events to the political and societal “road signs” that were found on the way to Auschwitz. Roth’s afternoon keynote speech, “Perpetrators, Bystanders, and Victims” prompted participants to examine implications for today’s world. Knowing that genocide is indeed a widespread and highly contemporary problem, Hunter and Light invited two other past participants in the Memorial Library summer seminar to speak about other forms of injustice. Dr. Gatsinzi Basaninyenzi presented a session entitled “Understanding the Tutsi Genocide and the Genocide in Darfur,” and Eugene Fedoseyev delivered a session on atrocities in Eastern Europe (with a focus on Russia) during World War II. All preservice and inservice teachers attending the one-day seminar received copies of Echoes and Reflections, a multimedia curriculum developed by the Anti-Defamation League, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, and Yad Vashem.
Hunter and Light view the one-day seminar as an outgrowth of their own profound learning experience at the 2010 Memorial Library Summer Seminar on Holocaust Education in New York City. Even before leaving New York, the two teachers began to explore ways they might share their experiences and new knowledge about Holocaust education, social justice teaching, and writing for social change with other Alabama educators. Hunter explains, “The seminar is a ‘seed’ effort, the first planting to grow a network of local educations who are interested in teaching about the Holocaust and want to be teachers for social justice.”
Hunter and Light plan to maintain contact with teachers who attended the seminar via online blogs and other forms of social media. There, teachers will share how they are using the Echoes and Reflections curriculum, and discuss ideas, student work and examples of student action related to Holocaust education and local social justice issues. Hunter and Light are hoping that, with time, they can offer a satellite site for the Memorial Library Holocaust Educators Network in Alabama and provide more intensive, sustained professional development for local teachers who want to be more effective Holocaust educators.
Mattelyn Morris, a 2nd grade teacher who attended the seminar, believes that Hunter and Light are on the right course. “The Holocaust conference was such an enlightening experience for me. To hear an actual survivor speak was very moving… Mr. Roth’s comments about bullying, one of the signposts leading up to the events of the Holocaust, certainly applies to young children today.”