Teachers Examine Life After Holocaust for Students’ Benefit
HOUSTON, TX (July 8, 2011) – Teachers from across the United States and from Lithuania and Croatia spent four days in July learning about life after the Holocaust from world-renowned experts at Holocaust Museum Houston’s 2011 Max M. Kaplan Summer Institute for Educators.
The summer institute, held July 5-8 and now in its eighth year, moved beyond the general history of the 20th century’s greatest genocide to explore the various dimensions and implications of the Holocaust and other mass murders.
“It’s a really wonderful opportunity for teachers with various backgrounds to come together and learn from scholars of the highest quality,” said Mary Lee Webeck, the Museum’s director of education. “The educators network with others who are interested in teaching these dark subjects, and as they learn and interact they become more knowledgeable in both pedagogic strategies and content expertise.”
The 29 educators, including two from Croatia and two from Lithuania, were selected to participate in the program after going through an application process. Preference was shown toward teachers who previously studied the Holocaust and those who have participated in previous educational programs at the Museum.
The event included presentations from nine speakers, each of them experts on life after the Holocaust. Among the speakers was an internationally recognized authority on the history of the infamous death camp Auschwitz, Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, who teaches at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture.
The educators also heard from Dr. Hyman Penn, a Houston-area pediatrician and docent at Holocaust Museum Houston, who shared the stories of his parents who endured the trials of the Holocaust and met each other in a displaced persons’ camp in Austria.
Dr. Michael Berenbaum, director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust and professor of Jewish studies at the American Jewish University, offered his expertise as he discussed life after the Holocaust.
Other presenters included Dr. Graham Cox, a faculty member at The University of Texas-Pan American, Dr. Mary Johnson, a senior historian at Facing History and Ourselves, and Carey Conner and Matthew Remington, visual arts educators at The University of Texas at Austin and Warren Fellows in 2009.
The teachers spent Thursday, July 7 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for a special screening of Claude Lanzmann’s documentary “Shoah.” The educators later learned how to use the lessons from the award-winning 9 1/2-hour documentary to teach their students about the Holocaust and other genocides.
“Having the experience of watching ‘Shoah’ in its entirety with a group of fellow educators was unbelievable,” said Gloria Rosenkrantz, who teaches at Houston Community College Southwest Campus. “I know that we will be able to incorporate everything we experienced into our classes and our lives.”
They later visited the MFAH a second time to view photographs of war and genocide with Anne Wilkes Tucker, a renowned curator of photographic works who was named by Time magazine as “America’s Best Curator” in 2001.
In addition to Rosenkrantz, participants from Houston in this year’s institute included: KaLynne Bennet from Hastings High School; Jennifer Haynes and Cheryl Mitchell from The Kinkaid School; Jose Martinez from Francis Elementary School; Mark McNeil from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory; Katie Ransdell from Alief Hastings High School; and Michael Segrist from Sam Rayburn High School.
Other Texas teachers attending were: Carey Conner from The University of Texas at Austin; Christin Day from West Texas A&M University and Amarillo College, Amarillo; Amy Headley from Rizzuto Elementary, LaPorte; Katie Hill from the Hardin Independent School District and Deborah Lowry from Hardin Intermediate School, Hardin; Angela Martin from Barrow Elementary, Brazoria; Diane Reitmyer from Strack Intermediate, Klein; Kathy Roark from Southwest High School, San Antonio; Jan Robertson from George Bush High School, Richmond; and Dennis White from the Lamar Institute of Technology, Beaumont.
Three teachers came from different states: Nick Coddington from Charles Wright Academy, University Place, WA; Gretchen Cole-Lade from Enid High School, Enid, OK; and Barry Coleman from Magnolia Heights School, Senatobia, MS.
Coddington, a social studies teacher, said he will be able to integrate many of the lessons into his classroom lectures. “I am taking away new information and pragmatic classroom skills that I will implement into my lessons next year,” he said.
In addition to the United States educators, two teachers hailed from Croatia — Branka Cacic from Karlovac and Nino Sertic from Rijeka — and two from Lithuania — Virginija Dudiene and Rita Juskeviciene.
Sertic said she most appreciated hearing from survivors of the Holocaust and their relatives at the summer institute. “The chance to hear survivors’ stories gives you a unique view of the whole tragic event,” she said. “Hearing a personal story touches you in a profound way.”
This educator training program was supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; the Max M. Kaplan Teacher Education Fund; the Chevra Kadisha Holocaust Studies Scholarship Fund; the Lea K. Weems Memorial Scholarship Fund; and United Airlines, the official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy. Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.
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