CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Brian O'Connell, a history and civics teacher at George Washington High School in Kanawha County, is one of only 10 educators from across the country invited to participate this year in the Holocaust Teachers Summit.
The teachers will travel to Poland this October at the request of the Polish government. Teachers will first meet in Washington, D.C., with Polish government officials and representatives of U.S. Jewish organizations before flying to Poland. Once there, teachers will spend four days in Warsaw and two days in Krakow/Auschwitz. American educators will team with Polish teachers as they study victim and survivor art. U.S. teachers also are expected to present papers on major units of study of the Holocaust.
“Great history teachers like Brian O’Connell turn required coursework into a personal experience for their students," said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. "Instead of just telling a story about the past, they engage their students and help them understand the connection between history and their current lives.”
The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Washington, D.C., in cooperation with the United Sates Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National In-Service Teacher Training Center, launched the Holocaust Teachers Summit last year. The goal of the program is to allow American and Polish teachers to discuss their experiences and exchange knowledge and methods on teaching about the tragic events of World War II.
All of the teachers chosen to travel to Poland also are participants in the United States Holocaust Museum’s Mandel Teacher Fellowship Program. Established in 1996, the Mandel Teacher Fellowship Program strives to develop a cadre of skilled secondary school teachers to serve as Holocaust education leaders in their schools and communities.
Participants were selected based on their extensive knowledge of Holocaust history, successful teaching experience and professional and community involvement. They must have taught Holocaust history for a minimum of five years.
Fellows are expected to use their experience to create outreach projects in their schools, communities or professional organizations. Past participants have launched a number of innovative Holocaust educational outreach programs, including holding Holocaust education conferences, developing online Holocaust curriculums and distributing Holocaust education guidelines to schools in their home states.
For more information, contact Regina Scotchie, social studies coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education, at (304) 558-558-5325, or the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.