Teacher Has Unique Opportunity

GLASGOW — A Glasgow educator will get a rare opportunity this summer that will help bring her a greater understanding of the Holocaust to her students.

Casi Owens, a Glasgow Middle School teacher, has been selected as one of 25 teachers from across the United States to attend a seminar at the Memorial Library in New York City from July 6 to 18. The library was established in the former home of Olga Lengyel, a survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp.

Owens teaches seventh-grade writing and eighth-grade literature at the middle school. She has just completed her fifth year at the school. It’ s Owens first teaching position. The local woman graduated from Barren County High School and attended Western Kentucky University where she received her deg-ree in education. She also has her master’ s degree in counseling.

Dr. John Haga-man, a professor at WKU and leader of the university’ s writing project of which she is a member e-mailed an application to Owens and encouraged her to participate in the Holocaust Memorial Institute Seminar this summer.

She filled out the application and submitted a 10-page essay, which involved explaining what she teaches and how the Holocaust has impacted her work in the classroom and the different sources she uses — films, books, any type of media.

“My entire year is spent on tolerance and overcoming prejudice and we do a unit strictly on ‘ Diary of Anne Frank,’ the play, so I get to take all those lesson plans, make copies and share those … while I’ m in New York,” she said.

Owens and the 24 other teachers chosen from across the country will stay in dorms at Columbia University, but classwork will take place in the library.

“I’ m just really excited about getting to go,” she said. “My students have already decided that they’ re going to put themselves in my bag, in my luggage — they’ re going to be stowaways.”

She plans to use the opportunity to broaden her knowledge of the Holocaust and how other teachers are presenting the material to encourage her own students.

“I hope to bring back new information to share with my students to make them see how there’ s always possibilities,” she said. “Strength overcomes, so they’ re very excited. I’ m excited. They want to know more. They see Anne Frank, but they want to know more — who else was there — what else happened.”

Owens said her inspiration for teaching stories from the Holocaust as a way of promoting tolerance comes from her own educational background when she learned of the history of the mid-20th century and the story of Anne Frank and others.

She said her students move from disbelief to empathy as she goes through the information with them. She uses a PowerPoint presentation with photographs and images they haven’ t seen in regular textbooks.

“They just really seem engaged throughout the entire time,” she said. “It’ s good to reach them on any level, to get them motivated and encouraged. What better way to teach tolerance.”

Owens will be working with Sondra Perl, director of the Holocaust Educators Network; Jennifer Lemberg, an instructor at NYU who is also working as the project coordinator; and Alice Braziller, a New York City high school teacher and Writing Project teacher-consultant.

The fellowship is funded by the Memorial Library in New York City. The seminar is offered by Lehman College of the City University of New York.

For more detailed information, visit the Web site at www.holocausteducators.org.


For more information about The Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI), please contact info@tolinstitute.org

TOLI is located at 58 East 79th Street in Manhattan. (get directions)