Castro Valley High School, Castro Valley, CA – May 18, 2016

by George J Elbaum

Castro Valley High School (CVHS) is a comprehensive 9-12 public high school with 2920 students of high diversity.  In the 10th grade students study the history of the Holocaust as part of the coverage of World War II, and English teacher Yvonna Shaw takes them on a parallel journey using literature including Maus by Art Spiegelman and adding a presentation by a Holocaust survivor.

This two-pronged, cross-disciplinary approach ensures that students not only have a factual background and an understanding of how the Holocaust evolved in the context of World War II, but also a sense of the psychological and individual toll connected with this history.  For example, Maus is drawn from personal experiences of a child of survivor, a graphic novel depicting the relationship between a father and son deeply impacted by history.  The legacies of the Holocaust are not only global and geo-political, as the students learn from literature, but also personal and rooted in family lore of all who survived.

CVHS has a long-time connection with Facing History and Ourselves through several teachers on staff who have accessed support and materials over many years.  With recent shifts in faculty through retirements and other changes, Yvonne Shaw now represents a new generation of Facing History teachers at the school.  She is introducing the resources to others on the campus, including veteran and newer members of the staff.  Principal Blaine Torpey, who explored Facing History resources himself as a former social studies teacher, plans a meeting for the Fall to acquaint more teachers with the resources and support available.

My presentation to more than 100 10th grade students was organized by Yvonna Shaw and arranged by Jack Weinstein of Facing History.  Other teachers attending it were Danielle Caddy and Stacy Kania.

Jack Weinstein's introduction

Jack Weinstein’s introduction

(More photos to follow.)

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Tennyson High School, Hayward, CA – May 10, 2016

by George J Elbaum

Tennyson High School is a comprehensive public high school with approximately 1,300 students. The school is extremely diverse and serves many students for whom English is a second language.  In both social studies and English courses, teachers make use of resources from Facing History and Ourselves to teach about the Holocaust as well as other difficult subjects.

My visit to Tennyson on May 10th was preceded by preparatory sessions on May 6th by Jack Weinstein, a Sr. Program Advisor for Facing History.  Some of the topics students had been exposed to before the visit included a study of propaganda; a film study using The Boy in Striped Pajamas; an introduction to themes of conformity and obedience using the story and film, Confessions of a Hitler Youth; a critical viewing of the popular film, Swing Kids; Facing History’s Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust; and an ongoing study of Elie Wiesel’s memoir, Night. 

Two Tennyson teachers hosted my talk for their multiple classes: Charlie Stephens and Jaynee Ruiz, who teach English and World History respectively, and they arranged for my talk through Jack Weinstein.  Attending also was teacher Jeff Klenow, and Jack’s Facing History colleague, Sarah Altschul, introduced the session and moderated an active Q & A.

everyone!

everyone!

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Kehillah Jewish High School, Palo Alto, CA – May 4, 2016

by George J Elbaum

Kehillah Jewish High School is an independent college preparatory high school distinguished by an exceptional academic program and a supportive environment that pairs rich traditions with the best of the Silicon Valley mindset.  “Kehillah” is a Hebrew word meaning “community,” and the school is one of a series of pluralistic (community) Jewish day schools in the United States.  In fourteen years, Kehillah Jewish High School has grown from a 9th grade class of 33 students to a community of 189 students in grades 9-12.  The average class size is 12, and due to the 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio, Kehillah teachers have close relationships with their students. Emphasis is placed both on nurturing and challenging students to achieve and excel.  Students meet twice a week with their academic advisors in an advisory group of 8 to 12 students and the advisors follow their advisees’ progress and guide their academic path.

“Repair of the world,” or social action, is a central Jewish value and a part of student life at Kehillah. Each class takes a unique service-oriented trip. These learning experiences have included a civil rights tour of the American South, hurricane relief work in Mississippi, and a national youth conference on homelessness in Washington, D.C.  Kehillah has several clubs dedicated to raising funds and awareness of global poverty, the health of the planet, animal rights, etc.

My presentation at Kehillah was part of its commemoration of the Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It was attended by all students in the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. The program was organized by Rabbi C. Michelle Greenberg, Dean of Students and Susan Packer, the parent of a Kehillah sophomore.

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Foothill High School, Pleasanton, CA – April 21, 2016 (PM)

by George J Elbaum

Foothill High School opened in 1973 and its current student body of approximately 2,300 reflects the demographic and economic diversity of their newly affluent and upwardly mobile community.  Foothill’s rich tradition of both care and accountability is a factor in helping each student reach his or her full potential.  Recognized as a California Distinguished School and a National Blue Ribbon California nominee, Foothill remains dedicated to school improvement.  Scholastically, students excel, scoring above national, state and district averages on standardized tests, high school exit exams and the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Advanced Placement tests.

In an attempt to meet the needs of its diverse student body, the school provides, in addition to standards-based curriculum, numerous academic and service groups such as the Multicultural Club and a rigorous sports selection reflected in the excellence of the athletic programs. At the same time, character education is an integral part of the school’s core mission, emphasizing integrity, honesty, responsibility, respect, compassion and self-discipline.  The mission of Foothill is to nurture and stimulate the intellectual, emotional and physical growth of each student, so that the expected learning emphasizes four growth areas for all students: becoming independent, life-long learners; utilizing essentials skills in current and future situations; strengthening personal character; and practicing active citizenship and concern for others.  One outcome is that Foothill has an award-winning Model United Nations team which has earned over 70 individual and 5 delegation awards, and has been distinguished as one of the best delegations in the entire East Bay.  Participants debate global politics, simulate diplomacy, and travel around the nation at Model UN conferences.

Its focus on good citizenship also involves Foothill’s involvement with Facing History and Ourselves.  Its English teachers use Facing History in teaching Eli Wiesel’s Night and the language of “upstanders and bystanders” to help the students’ understanding of these concepts.  Students also learn about the Holocaust in their World History classes, and an audience of approximately 250 ranging from 10th to 12th grade attended my presentation.  It was organized by English teacher Nadia Moshtagh and arranged by Language Arts Instructional Coach John Ribovich and Jack Weinstein of Facing History.  In attendance were also English teachers Michelle Garlit and Heather Fleming, Social Studies teacher Michelle Jurich and Librarian Patti Stein.  Photography was in the capable hands of Instructional Tech Coach Scott Padway took many of the photos including the 360 degrees panorama per this link: Spherical Image | RICOH THETA

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Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA – April 21, 2016 (AM)

by George J Elbaum

Amador Valley High School (AVHS) has set a challenging question for its 2640 students to explore: “How will you A.I.D. your world?” wherein A stands for Academic Achievement, I for Innovative Thinking, and D for Demonstration of Civic Responsibility.  The school success in academic achievement is shown by being deemed a three-time California Distinguished School, a National School of Character, and a two-time National Blue Ribbon School.  The Daily Beast/Newsweek ranked Amador Valley High School 238th in its 2012 list of the 1,000 Best High Schools in America.  This success in academics is paralleled in AVHS’s extracurricular activities such as music, theater, and athletics, as well as the development of civic awareness and responsibility in its students.  In national competitions such as We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, the Amador Valley team has ranked in the top four places 10 times in recent years, including 2006-2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014.  Eight of Amador Valley’s teachers—Mark Aubel, Debbie Emerson, Jon Grantham, Tom Hall, Debbie Harvey, Brian Ladd, Marla Silversmith, and Eric Thiel—have been recognized as a Pleasanton Unified School District teacher of the year.

In developing the students’ civic responsibility, an integral part of the school’s Sophomore English course includes a strong multi-week exploration of the Holocaust, its historical context and its literature, including Elie Wiesel’s Night.  To augment the Holocaust study, Teacher/Librarian Erik Scherer, Language Arts Instructional Coach John Ribovich and Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves organized my visit to AVHS.  Instructional Tech Coach Scott Padway took many of the photos.  The students were very well prepared, and this resulted after my talk in a long and very gratifying Q&A, a personal exchange with the students which is my favorite part of any presentation.

Because of the unusually strict rules by AVHS, only the 2 photos with 4 students (below) were allowed without special permission.  Missing are 2 photos of the whole audience taken face-on and 19 out of 21 photos of 45 enthusiastic students who joined me for individual or small group photos, expecting to see their photos on my website.   I very much hope that the special permission will be given to add the other 41 students’ photos to those below.

introduction by Jack Weinstein

introduction by Jack Weinstein

starting my talk

starting my talk

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Notre Dame High School, San Jose, CA – April 20, 2016

by George J Elbaum

Notre Dame High School is an all-girls, Catholic, college preparatory school with an enrollment of 630 students.  Since its founding in 1851, it has been the premier educator of young women of Silicon Valley based on its motto: “Teach them what they need to know for life.”  As such, its focus is on high quality academics, leadership, global citizenship and socially-responsible entrepreneurship.  The student body reflects Silicon Valley’s ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, so that half of the 2016 class comes from homes in which a language other than English is spoken and one quarter of the student body receives financial assistance.

Notre Dame students complete a range of community service activities in their four years, as this teaches them to be “socially responsible and answer the call to be a person of justice” and to try making a difference in the San Jose community.  By their senior year, students design and execute their own Senior Service Learning Project.

Notre Dame’s focus on global citizenship and individual responsibility has been supported by its involvement with Facing History and Ourselves for more than 10 years, starting with a pilot program integrating sophomore history with English.  Facing History units on human rights, genocide studies, racism, art as social protest, and oral history eventually became part of every humanities and science class offered.  There is a FH Student Leadership Group that works within the school and alongside other schools’ parallel groups to effect social change and model participatory citizenship.  Notre Dame students have met and learned from many Facing History resource speakers, including scholars, authors, witnesses to history, survivors of genocides, and upstanders who have made a difference in their communities.

All humanities teachers (English, Social Studies, and Religious Studies) have participated in seminars, workshops, and trainings provided to the school by Facing History–and all staff members have exposure to key themes in annual workshops as well, because Notre Dame is among the 75 schools across the country who are in a partnership through Facing History’s Innovative Schools Network (ISN).

My talk at Notre Dame was organized by teacher Rita Cortez, who participated in the educators’ workshop organized by Jack Weinstein of Facing History where I spoke on January 20, 2016 in Palo Alto, and she and Jack invited me to speak at Notre Dame to approximately 160 10th grade World History students.  Other Notre Dame humanities teachers in attendance were Mark McDougall, Kate Motroni-Fish, Hilary Orr, Patrice Hoffman, Bayard Nielsen and Cathy Sharer.

post-talk photo op

post-talk photo op

starting my talk

starting my talk

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Newark Memorial High School, Newark, CA – April 14, 2016

by George J Elbaum

Newark Memorial High School (NMHS) has an enrollment of approximately 2000 student and high diversity: 35% Hispanic, 31% non-Hispanic white, 13% Asian, 11% Filipino, 8% African-American and 2% others.  Average class sizes range from 25 to 29 students.

In developing its students’ social responsibility, the Social Studies Department chaired by Laura Knoop has for several years been teaching a multi-week unit on the Holocaust which exposes the students to books such Elie Wiesel’s Night and The Diary of Anne Frank, and also to presentations by Holocaust survivors.  Since Laura Knoop attended the educators’ workshop organized by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves where I spoke on January 20, 2016 in Palo Alto, she and Jack invited me to speak at NMHS and organized the event for approximately 200 10th grade World History students.  My presentation was followed by an active Q&A session which included some probing questions asked of me for the very first time – I truly value that!

In conducting this event Laura Knoop was aided by teachers Sara Canales and Alex Seitz, and by Dean of Students Elie Wasser.

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