CHARLOTTE – Kathleen Cunningham, an eighth-grade English teacher at Community House Middle School, will travel to Jerusalem, Israel this summer to enhance her understanding of the Holocaust.
Cunningham is among 35 educators who will attend an advanced learning seminar in July offered by Echoes & Reflections. They will get a tour of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, as well as engage in workshops, listen to lectures and visit historical and cultural sites.
“What I’m really looking forward to is being immersed in the culture over there and how they perceive, view and teach the Holocaust,” Cunningham said. “Their lens is going to be different than the lens I have here as someone non-Jewish raised here in America.”
The seminars help develop a more personal connection to what they are teaching, according to Sheryl Ochayon, Yad Vashem’s program director for Echoes & Reflections.
“The empathy and stronger knowledge base they build during these experiences carry over into the classroom and help educators convey to students that the Holocaust is a human story – part of our shared human story,” Ochayon said.
Students at Community House Middle School have the advantage of being taught by someone well-versed on the subject.
Cunningham has sought out other training opportunities to enrich her understanding. She also reads a lot of historical fiction novels about the World War II era. “Night” by Elie Wiesel serves as an anchor during an eight-week Holocaust unit in her classes.
“People always ask me why I’m so interested in the Holocaust,” Cunningham said. “They assume that I’m Jewish.”
Cunningham is actually non-denominational, but she finds the subject interesting.
“It really forces yourself and your students to think critically and see how it impacts our lives today and reflect on our behaviors,” she said. “It just teaches us to be more kind and compassionate in our actions.”
There was a time when Cunningham considered becoming a Holocaust educator. But she’s currently pursuing a master’s degree in hopes of becoming a principal.
Want to apply?
Echoes & Reflections, a resource for Holocaust educational materials, will open the application process for 2020 seminars later this year. Visit www.echoesandreflections.org for details.