Holocaust Education and Summertime Planning for the Academic Year Ahead by Donna Tarney

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How can it already be July?!? Like clockwork, this cry goes out from the heart of every educator at this time of year. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing; shopping for last minute items before leaving on vacation, picking up the kids from summer camp, or lying by the pool with your summer read. If you are a teacher, the realization that July is actually here brings with it a sense of the fleeting nature of time and the urgency of making each moment count. If you are like me, July is also a reminder of the need to revamp my lesson plans and how easy it is to let summer fun take first place. In the past, this has led me to self-recrimination, feelings of guilt, and further procrastination.

This year I have a new plan! Instead of getting mired down in negativity, I choose to look back with fondness and look ahead with excitement. Just typing those words makes me feel a little more hopeful! Rather than approach my lesson plans with the question, “What went wrong?” I will make a list titled “What went right?”. Rather than dread the process of revamping ‘old’ lesson plans, I will anticipate the opportunity to renew and refresh what is already good. Standing in-between the years can be a great place to gain perspective and create growth.

With that in mind, the Stan Greenspon Center Holocaust education team is in the same place. We are working our way through the summer months looking back at what went well and planning for an exciting year to come. We are pleased to share that we had great success in providing professional development for teachers as well as bringing many Holocaust and social justice educations days into local schools. We impacted over 1,000 students and nearly 100 educators during this time. We also helped to create an educator’s guide for the film “Big Sonia”, which is available to schools through the website https://bigsonia.com/.

We have quite an exciting year ahead! Thanks to a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, the Greenspon Center education team will take our brand new Becoming One Human Family Holocaust and Human Rights Program into Middle and High Schools during the coming school year. So far we have three schools signed up for this half or whole day program centered around the amazing life story of Walter Suskind as portrayed in the film “Secret Courage.” After viewing the film of this little known hero, students will experience large and small group learning sessions dealing with identity, resistance, courage, and hope. The program culminates with a commitment by the school community to act for justice within their school. Trained facilitators run the program which means teachers learn alongside their students! Designed to be an ‘in-school’ field trip, this program meets the need for top quality Holocaust and human rights education without placing a burden on the faculty or the budget of the schools. At the same time, we will continue to work with individual schools to design Holocaust and human rights programs designed to meet their individual needs and goals for their communities.



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