A Trip to Washington D.C. Deeply Impacts NC Educators

In antisemitism, Education, Holocaust, Home, News, North Carolina, Professional Development by Donna TarneyLeave a Comment

On July 13, 2022, at 5:30 p.m., a group of North Carolina educators arrived in Washington D.C. for three days of inquiry, shared learning, and community building. As they stepped off the bus, they were tired and hungry, but ready to dive into the subject that brought them together – bringing meaningful Holocaust education to their students.

The big questions that guided this year’s trip centered around memory and memorialization.

Participants and facilitators wrestled with the questions, “Why do we remember the events of the Holocaust?”, “How does the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) tell the story?”, and “Whose voices are left out of the narrative?” They investigated the art and architecture of the museum itself, evaluated the exhibits housed in the building, and sought out stories and artifacts that impacted them as educators and individuals. Sometimes they found answers. Many more times, they discovered new questions.

Two full days at the USHMM takes a toll on the body and soul. To bring balance to the journey, the facilitators arranged for an evening tour of the Washington D.C. monuments. The team chose a tour guide who had a sense of humor, a love of history, and an endless amount of information. The group’s favorite stops were at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, where one of the teachers had a chat with Governor Gavin Newsom who was also touring the site.

Two educators wrote to us about their experiences. Here are their thoughts, in their own words:

“Visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was, of course, a heavy experience but it was also moving and even inspiring.  I was most drawn to the numerous stories of resistance by both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities at the time.  I found hope in that; I came away believing that its history is far more important than that of the oppressors.

Because of this experience, I am now better equipped to help my students understand that such inhumane injustice has happened and can happen again, but that it hasn’t and won’t announce itself as such.  I want them to know that when it does happen, they will have a similar obligation to recognize and resist it.  That decision will likely carry risk but to paraphrase Hannah Senesh, whose heroism I learned about at the museum, we must all be willing to gamble on what matters most.”

– Albertia Burgess, Onslow Virtual Secondary School

One educator wrote that this trip “was a life changing experience.”

“As an educator, I often encourage empowerment and self-advocacy.  When teaching the Holocaust, I tend to focus on the importance of sticking up for yourself and others. So, “fighting back” has been the perspective I’ve used to teach this historical tragedy for more than a decade.  This past week, during our trip to Washington, D.C., my perspective shifted.

On July 14, 2022, for the first time in my teaching career, I felt vulnerable…helpless….doomed. Though I have always relied on my own ability to retaliate in some capacity, the fourth floor of the USHMM refused me the opportunity.  I could not fight; I could not stand up for me. All at once, I was nobody; I was voiceless. With much difficulty, I made it through the exhibit, all the while feeling as if I was an integral part of it.  This created a new found awareness, level of compassion, and interest in activism for me. I will forever be grateful for this experience that I am certain has made me more empathetic and sincere in my efforts to understand how the histories of others, ultimately, impact me and the students I teach.”

– Drew Daniels, Hickory High School

Two days at the USHMM takes a toll on the body and soul. To bring balance to the journey, the facilitators arranged for an evening tour of the Washington D.C. monuments.

Other educators shared; this “was a life changing experience,” it had “transformed [their] teaching of the Holocaust and [they were] taking what was learned back to our classrooms,” and two highlights of the experience were “the relationships that were formed by each other and becoming 34 new emissaries about the Jewish experiences and the dangers of antisemitism.”

This trip was made possible thanks to generous funding from the North Carolina Holocaust Foundation with support from the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte. It was the Foundation’s first trip outside of North Carolina since COVID-19 came to town. The experience was facilitated by Donna Tarney, Education and Outreach Specialist from the Stan Greenspon Center, Andrew Burton, English teacher and friend of the NC Council on the Holocaust, and Cherie Page, ELA teacher at Piedmont Middle School.

The North Carolina Holocaust Foundation has sponsored 4 teacher bus trip to the USHMM, serving 140 teachers in their journey to teach this difficult supbject.

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