Issuing a directive is but the first step in truly effecting change and having impact. Successful directives include the means and resources to implement them.
Across the U.S. 25 states require Holocaust education; 17 have a Holocaust commission, council or taskforce. North Carolina has both a mandate and a council, and is one of an even smaller subset that has gone the extra mile to approve an accompanying budget for resources and curricula, thanks to the hard work and advocacy of the N.C. Council on the Holocaust. The Stan Greenspon Holocaust and Social Justice Education Center at Queens University offers additional support and resources for teachers in the Charlotte area.
North Carolina is a “local control” state, meaning that while the mandate puts in place a requirement for Holocaust education throughout the state, each school district has autonomy to decide exactly how it will fulfill the requirement. At a minimum, a 45-minute session taught sometime between sixth and twelfth grade could enable a district to check the box on the mandate’s requirement.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is taking the mandate very seriously. The district already complies with the mandate based on its current curriculum, with an eight-week unit included in eighth grade Language Arts. Still, it is a challenge for teachers to prepare to teach a topic many have not taught before, and which is sensitive and traumatic.
At the Greenspon Center, Katie Cunningham, Holocaust Curriculum and Outreach Specialist, and Judy LaPietra, Associate Director, are leading several efforts to support teachers. The Center created a nationally leading Certification in Holocaust Pedagogy (CHP) program and graduated the first cohort in April 2023. The next class for the 2023-2024 school year is already full, but educators interested in joining the 2024-2025 program can contact Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org. The program is unique in N.C. in offering both training and travel to prepare educators. The first two cohorts will travel to Poland for a learning experience in June 2024.
Graduates of the first cohort will take what they learned into schools and classrooms this school year.
“Being a part of the [program] continues to encourage me that I am not alone in my mission and vision for implementation of Holocaust education. Through my CHP experience, I will be able to apply my Holocaust education knowledge, experience, and resources to help provide a framework for English teachers at my school,” said Mallory Sattler, CHP graduate.
Currently, the certification program is only available to N.C. teachers, but Cunningham and LaPietra dream of taking it further. “With additional budget resources, the certification program is scalable and we aspire to have impact beyond North Carolina,” said Cunningham.
In addition to the certification program, the Greenspon Center offers other forms of support. Teachers can contact the center to have a gap analysis done on their curriculum – Cunningham will review a Holocaust curriculum and identify gaps in resources and content. The Center offers resources to teachers on its website, such as documentaries, curriculum guides, and trusted sources of information.
The Center also offers personal development (PD) days for teachers and administrators. On November 6, a PD opportunity will be offered at Queens University on “Combating Contemporary Antisemitism in our Classrooms & Schools,” where speakers will include a reformed former neo-Nazi.
Cunningham has also authored an 80-lesson elective unit on the Holocaust, which will be available for CMS students in grades 9 – 12 beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. The Greenspon Center will offer training and support for teachers of this unit.
The Greenspon staff provides coaching and support for educators one-on-one and in groups. At CMS’s curriculum day in August, Cunningham led sessions on “Teaching Trauma without Inflicting Trauma,” which were attended by more than 100 middle and high school social studies teachers.
In January 2024, the Greenspon Center is excited to bring the internationally acclaimed Seeing Auschwitz exhibit to Charlotte. The exhibit includes 100 photographs of the camp and audio testimonies from survivors. The Center’s plans include covering the cost for students in grades 7 – 12 to visit.
“The more resources, training, and support we can provide, the more effective we will be in advancing Holocaust knowledge and combating antisemitism. We have a great opportunity to do justice for the North Carolina mandate, and beyond,” said Cunningham.
If you are a parent and see opportunity for Cunningham to interact with your child’s school, an educator seeking training and support, or are interested in supporting the program or sponsoring an educator, reach out to Katie Cunningham, email@example.com.