THS teacher to attend Holocaust conference

Published 5:38 pm Monday, March 5, 2018

Rachel Hartsell is a social studies teacher at Thorsby High School, but has been interested in the Holocaust since the later years of graduate school.

Each year the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center sponsors the Brenda and Fred Friedman teacher scholarship program, which allows teachers to visit national conferences focused on the topic.

It is the third year that Hartsell has been selected as part of the program. In the past she has attended conferences in Washington D.C. and Memphis, Tennessee.

Much of the knowledge that Hartsell has gathered from past conferences has been translated to her classroom and passed along to her students.

“For me, it’s about exposing students in rural Alabama to a group of people that they might not ever have contact with,” Hartsell said. “This is hard content to come across for students to teach them the scope of how catastrophic an event it was.”

Despite the hard realities that some of the subject matter may contain, it is something that Hartsell believes deserves a place in the curriculum.

This year she will get to go to New York City for the 2018 Summer Institute for Teachers Alfred Lerner Fellowship Program at The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

Hartsell was one of about 25 participants from around the world that were chosen to take part in the summer program.

According to Hartsell, this year’s program will include teachers from Poland and Croatia.

“This is a worldwide conference, which really excites me as a teacher,” Hartsell said. “Those are different experiences that I can bring back to the classroom for my students, so that they can make more of a personal connection with not only the victims of the Holocaust but also the survivors.”

The program will put her in the same room with some of the top Holocaust scholars of the modern time.

One of the most anticipated people that Hartsell is looking forward to meeting in New York City is Peter Hayes, who recently wrote a book titled “Why? Explaining the Holocaust,” and is one of the scheduled lecturers.

“I’ve found that learning is a continual process,” Hartsell said. “You have to continue to learn even as educator, so that you don’t become stagnant.

According to Hartsell, one of the themes of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is to “never again” let such an injustice occur.

“For the living and the dead we must bear witness, never again shall this happen,” Hartsell said. “That starts with education.”