COLONIE Each time Shaker High School English teacher Thea MacFawn adds a book to her curriculum about the Holocaust and other genocides, she receives the same type of response from her students.
“The students always have the urge to want to do something,” MacFawn said. “Genocide still happens over and over again. Students are always still shocked by that.”
Since she’s been teaching at the high school since 2005, MacFawn said she has struggled to figure out a way to get her students involved with a project outside of the classroom regarding social justice or a human rights issue and relate it back to one of five genocides – the Holocaust, and those in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Sudan. After attending a three-day conference at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. last summer, she realized her newfound love for the museum could help with her problem.
“I was really interested in doing more with the museum. I think they have incredible resources,” MacFawn said.
She decided to apply to the museum’s elite educational fellowship offered to national and international teachers. Out of nearly 100 applicants, MacFawn was one of the 20 chosen for the program.
“It’s exciting and humbling,” MacFawn said.
The fellowship, which was founded in 1996, was created for teachers interested in furthering their knowledge of the Holocaust to help bring it back to the classroom. Since it began, there have been more than 300 fellows, many of whom stay active with the museum to this day. The museum designates 20 teachers every year. This year, four are from Germany and Lithuania.
“All of the applicants have a very strong knowledge on the Holocaust. But we want to increase that. One of the things about this area is that you can always learn more,” said Pete Fredlake, director of national outreach for teacher initiatives for the museum. “We’re finding out new things all of the time, so we want to increase our historical knowledge.”