A Union teacher has brought advanced Holocaust education to Union Middle School students, and now will have a chance to expand curriculum and education district-wide.
Kerri Flynn, who teaches communication arts at UMS, has been selected as a U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow. Through the fellowship, Flynn and 20 other teachers from across the country will be trained by national experts on the Holocaust and genocide.
Flynn already implements Holocaust-based instruction in her classroom, which she says is important to both teach communication arts and boost character.
“I want them to see the world and each other as people,” she said. “When faced with stereotypes and prejudice, we are all just people.”
Although training will be this summer in Washington, D.C., Flynn already has expanded Holocaust education at the school and within the community.
On April 23 UMS students will host a Holocaust Remembrance Exhibit in the school cafeteria. It is held from 4-6 p.m. and will include Holocaust survivor Gunter Goldsmith, of Wildwood, who will speak at 5 p.m.
This is the second year for the exhibit.
Flynn noted that eighth graders will be the “docents” which lead the tours during the exhibit.
The docents have volunteered to stay after school to help with the event.
“I find the Holocaust really interesting,” said eighth-grader Jay Bone. “This is the first year that we are really talking about it.”
“The whole topic is interesting,” added Trent Kranz. “I like the time period anyway. It catches my attention.”
The exhibit is an introduction to the Holocaust for many UMS students.
UMS eighth-grader Nick Key said other students may take more from the educational opportunity while learning from peers.
“Kids learn better through other people’s eyes who aren’t adults,” he said.
Flynn explained that students will meet with UMS history classes.
Many UMS students also will attend a speaking event at Union High School featuring Eva Kor, a Holocaust survivor who will speak to students via Skype. That event is Thursday, April 19, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
According to Flynn, her students have seen common themes throughout history, a goal of the Holocaust education. One example is Native American genocide during the Trail of Tears, compared to the Holocaust.
“This is a great unit for some of these kids,” she said. “They can connect with the struggle to survive.
“They are reading stories about people whose desire to live is so strong,” Flynn added. “Some kids have harder backgrounds and they can relate.”
Following her training, the fellowship requires that Flynn develop a team comprised of educators from seventh-12 grades. The team will communicate openly and share resources.
Flynn said she would like to establish a statewide model for Holocaust education with the assistance of the Holocaust Education and Awareness Commission. The model could help provide lessons and guidelines for teachers.