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Holocaust education offered to Michigan teachers at WMU seminar

by Mark Schwerin

Aug. 10, 2011 | WMU News

KALAMAZOO--Twenty-two schoolteachers from across Michigan are taking part in a six-day seminar at Western Michigan University to help them teach about the Holocaust and social justice issues.

WMU's Third Coast Writing Project, with support from the National Writing Project, received funding from the Memorial Library to create the Holocaust Educator Network of Michigan, a series of summer seminars focused on Holocaust education and social justice education. Participants also will share resources across the sites of the National Writing Projects of Michigan.

The local Reading, Writing and Teaching the Holocaust Summer Seminar kicked off Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Fetzer Center. Activities throughout the week, most of them at Transformations at the former Nazareth College, include a testimony from a Holocaust survivor, Holocaust films and discussions, panel discussions, a lecture on Nazi propaganda, and sessions on developing community resources and planning for the classroom.

Based in New York City, the Holocaust Educators Network was founded by Holocaust survivor Olga Lengyel. Under the guidance of Dr. Sondra Perl, the network offers a 12-day summer seminar for faculty from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities interested in furthering their knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides. Using an inquiry-based approach, the network provides educators with tools to heighten their students' engagement with this sensitive subject matter, guiding students from shock and denial to compassion and social action.

The National Writing Project's Rural Sites Network has partnered with the Holocaust Educators Network since 2006 to provide the Summer Seminar on Holocaust Education for teachers from rural areas of the National Writing Project. Hosted by WMU, the Michigan-based program will be led by Heather Hollands and Amy Laitinen from the Upper Peninsula Writing Project and Corey Harbaugh, Third Coast Writing Project.

Each of Michigan's National Writing Project sites have committed to funding teams of two teachers. The 2011 program is a residential experience that will include intensive work on teaching, research and advocacy in Holocaust education. The program has received $17,000 in funding from the Holocaust Educator Network, with an additional $6,000 to be collected via registration fees.

Housed in the WMU Department of English, the Third Coast Writing Project has been offering teacher development programs throughout Michigan since 1994. In 2010, the TCWP provided more than 11,000 hours of high-quality professional development to area teachers. The Third Coast has hosted several major national events for the National Writing Project, including the 2009 Rural Sites Network Conference, which brought more than 200 teacher-leaders to WMU.

For more information, contact Dr. Jonathan Bush, chair of the Department of English, at or (269) 387-2571.