February 26, 2024

Izdaniya

Education, What Else?

Teaching the Holocaust – STORIES FROM SCHOOL AZ

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Should everyone teach the Holocaust or only those who have had training? I ask this question because recently our ELA teacher went on medical leave and left as her lesson for the remainder of the year to have the sub teach the book, “Number the Stars”. Now we could not get a sub so different teachers are teach each of the 5 class periods. There are five different approaches to teaching this book. Some are simply having the kids read it on their own, others popcorn reading, and one is actually asking comprehension questions. The problem is there is no real value in the book because of how it is being taught. I am in no way an expert in teaching the Holocaust but I have been trained by Echoes and Reflections, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Arizona Jewish Foundation, Martin-Springer Institute, and have attended numerous workshops so, it drives me crazy to hear so many missed opportunities to enforce the relevance of the book especial with the continuous mistreatment of the Jewish community today.

Was it right for the ELA to leave this book when she knew full well that no one was going to teach it in the manner that she would have? Should she have selected a less meaningful book? Should she have reached out to me and asked for my support? Right now I am teaching my students about the Holocaust with the memoir, “Kiss Every Step” and students are reading aloud, working with the vocabulary as it is geared toward a higher level than my 7th grade students, identifying locations, discussing treatment, discussions on personal decisions made by the individuals and we are only on chapter 7. For each of the four classes I am teaching using this memoir the questions range from level 1 to level 4 and sometimes I need to set a few students straight on showing respect to the subject but I provide them with the evidence in the form of documents, pictures I have taken from Auschwitz and other camps and cities in Poland and Germany, and statistics. I want my students to understand the severity of this topic and not not just see at a book they read in 7th grade. I fear students who do not have me as their Social Studies teacher and are part of that ELA class are going to walk away with that feeling and it will be such a disservice.

I was not even aware this was being taught until the science teacher who picked up one of the ELA periods said the kids were reading the book in her class. I asked what her approach was for teaching it and she said popcorn reading with a list of questions the ELA teacher left. I looked at the questions and they were all level 1 questions. None of the questions evoke personal connections or inquiry into the characters or actions. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. I did walk out disappointed in the ELA teacher and the science teacher. I’m not sure if I am making more of this than I should be but the fact that this past summer I had the enlightening opportunity to visit Auschwitz, Blechhammer, Gross Rosen, and the various towns surrounding these camps made me more focused and determined to teach the Holocaust in a more profound manner. I feel it is my duty to do more with the time, materials, and personal experiences I have to teach the Holocaust.

 

Laura Ballesteros

Laura was destined to be a teacher when as a small child she would gather her stuff animals and teach them how to read a book she saw on the PBS show Reading Rainbow. She began her quest to become a teacher with focusing on teaching American History, but an art history teacher guided her towards teaching English. He wanted to ensure she would be able to get a teaching position right out of college. She followed his suggestion and upon subbing at a middle school she ran into her former middle school Social Studies teacher Elizabeth Clontz. Upon completion of their conversation with the principal Laura was offered a position at that school. Mrs. Clontz provided her with the support and direction she needed to complete her first three years of teaching with confidence and dedication to her craft.
Laura has spent all 23 years of her teaching at that very school in Language Arts, Special Education, Read 180, Jaguar Den Intervention, and Social Studies 6-8. In 2007, she earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. In 2013, she earned her National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Language Arts. She is currently in her dream position as a 7th grade teacher focusing on WWI, WWII, Holocaust, Cold War, and Economics. Over her 23 years teaching, she has taken her students on field trips to museums, concerts, Broadway plays, the state capital, theme parks, and wild animal parks. She has created Hogwarts Night, WWII Bond Dances, and AVID Parent/Students Nights. She is most happy with her teaching when students can interact with history and have fun with it.
In her free time, she travels to places related to the history she teaches. She has had the privilege of visiting Europe in 2018 and 2022 under the guidance and financial support of the WWII Museum and NAU Martin-Springer Institute. She has traveled across the country under the guidance of economic organizations to explore economic issues of the past and present. She enjoys returning with her wealth of information and experiences to share with her husband and son.

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