Posted Monday, September 4, 2000

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Instruction on Terrifying Scholchildren
It can be terrifying for kids to find out there was a place where children turned in their own. -- Pennsylvania Schoolteacher

The Beaver County Times, Western Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA

Friday, September 8, 2000

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Teacher to give lesson on Holocaust

By Patrick O'Shea,
Times Staff

Teaching students about the Holocaust is like trying to explain the unexplainable, Riverside School District gifted-education teacher Stephanie Mazzei said recently.

"It can be terrifying for kids to find out there was a place where children turned in their own," she said.

Mazzei hopes to help other teachers with this difficulty this fall through a program at the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit in Center Township.

slave labourThe two courses, "Teaching the Holocaust" and "Advanced Holocaust Seminar," will be open in October to Beaver County teachers who would like advice on how to teach about the systematic destruction of European Jews before and during World War II. The courses will discuss ways to introduce the topic in a wide spectrum of classes, from art to history, in the elementary to high school grades.

Each course is 15 hours long and costs $450 to attend. Anyone interested in participating may contact the BVIU at (724) 774-7800.

The first course covers 1933 to 1939, when the Holocaust was set into motion, and parallels the politics of German dictator Adolf Hitler and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The goal is to find a way to go over what happened in a nonsensational way, Mazzei said.

The second course provides more in-depth coverage of the architects of the Holocaust and a look at the positions of other European countries at the time.

Mazzei said at least two Holocaust survivors will speak in the classes. She also offers resources for teachers, including a $250 grant for Holocaust supplies for classrooms.

Auschwitz gateMazzei, who has been a teacher for 34 years, became interested in improving Holocaust education about 18 years ago when she was teaching a sixth-grade English class on "The Diary of Anne Frank."

"I realized these students had absolutely no understanding of her place in history," she said.

Mazzei asked students whether they had any grandparents who fought in World War II. She invited those grandparents to speak before the class.

"The students were absolutely captivated," Mazzei said.

"Jewish soap"From there, Mazzei immersed herself in literature about the Holocaust and in 1997 took a six-week fellowship in Poland, where she toured three concentration camps, and Israel, where she heard from several Jewish scholars.

Mazzei has attended conferences sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and serves as a member of the Pennsylvania Educators Holocaust Task Force. This is the third time she has taught courses on the Holocaust for the intermediate unit, and she teaches similar courses throughout the region.

To Mazzei, it is more important than ever to increase understanding of what happened 60 years ago. She said it is possible in some districts for a student to graduate from school and have taken only one day's instruction on the Holocaust. "And if he was sick that day, he has missed it," Mazzei said.

In 10 years, she said, there won't be many Holocaust survivors left. Mazzei said she doesn't want to see the Holocaust become like the New England witchcraft trials of the 1600s, almost forgotten.

"If we don't remember, it will be relegated to a paragraph," she said.

Mentioning massacres in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia, Mazzei said genocide of ethnic groups still could happen. "Intolerance is more of a problem than people realize," she said.

Patrick O'Shea

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