Canon-McMillan High School English teacher Meg Pankiewicz is among 21 middle school and high school teachers from across the United States selected as 2021 Alfred Lerner Fellows.
The Jewish Federation of the Righteous chose teachers from 12 states and four educators at U.S.-based Holocaust centers.
At fellows, Pankiewicz and the teachers took part in JFR’s Summer Institute, an intensive academic seminar that was scheduled for Columbia University but was held virtually from June 27 to July 1.
Pankiewicz and the other teachers studied the history of the Holocaust and discussed new teaching techniques for introducing the subject into their classrooms.
They got to hear lectures given by noted Holocaust survivors and scholars, including Peter Hayes, Robert Jan van Pelt, who was a key witness in Deborah Lipstadt’s international trial for Holocaust denial, and Alexandra Zapruder.
“It was absolutely amazing, and an unbelievable experience to be a part of it and to meet with world-renowned scholars. I cannot wait to utilize the information I learned in my classroom and apply it to my doctoral studies,” said Pankiewizc, who is a doctoral student in Holocaust and genocide studies at Gratz College.
The educators were able to meet in small groups following each lecture, address the specific aspect of the Holocaust that is presented, and share teaching concepts and develop approaches to introducing the subject matter to their students.
Teachers selected for the program must be English or social studies teachers at the middle or high school level, have taught at least five years, are at least five years from retirement and currently teach the Holocaust in their classroom.
Pankiewicz teaches a popular Holocaust literature class at the high school. She, along with a group of students, also partnered with the Anti-Defamation League to launch a No Place for Hate campaign aimed at promoting tolerance and acceptance at the high school.
In the Holocaust class, Pankiewicz makes parallels from the past and present in terms of how easily hate speech can incite violence and lead to wars and genocide like what happened during the Holocaust.
“(The summer institute session) reinforced my notion to be vigilant and aware of the pattern of violence and hate,” said Pankiewicz.
Each Lerner fellow comes from a region of the country where the JFR operates Holocaust Centers of Excellence in conjunction with a local Holocaust museum or center.
The program aims to provide teachers with graduate level courses on the Holocaust; offer connections with other teachers and their curriculum; and give them classroom resources.