Spanaway Lake High School, Spanaway, WA – March 11, 2011

By George J Elbaum

The newly remodeled Spanaway Lake High School is situated in a tranquil, wooded, green lawn campus, and thus a surprising sight shortly after turning off a busy commercial thoroughfare.  An even bigger surprise was teacher Kelly Wheeler and her 3 combined Honors classes, Communication Arts and AP Language and Composition,  of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.  The 3 classes totalling 78 students had spent about a month studying the Holocaust, including Elie Wiesel’s Night, and working for several weeks designing and constructing small Holocaust memorials, some table-top and some wall-hanging, which showed  amazing sensitivity, creativity, and serious effort.   These were placed throughout the library with the help of librarian Sandy Wusterbarth-Brown the day before my talk, and are shown on some of the photos below.  I was deeply moved by these memorials which, together with heartfelt statements by some of the students, told me why Kelly was named Bethel School District’s Teacher of the Year.  The event was arranged by Janna Charles of Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.


with teacher Kelly Wheeler


with Emma


with Nneka


with Melody


Students' Holocaust memorials


...note the chain...

..note tattooed numbers on arms and crematorium smokestack (smoke puffs not in photo)

About gelbaum

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8 Responses to Spanaway Lake High School, Spanaway, WA – March 11, 2011

  1. haley russell says:

    I want to say thank you very much for coming to our school. I’m so thankfull for your story it inspired me. I decided to forget the bad just like you do.’thanks again.

    • gelbaum says:

      You are very welcome, and I hope it works for you as well as it has worked for me. However, I don’t really know whether I instinctively learned to forget the past or whether I was simply born that way, but whichever way, it works.

  2. haley russell says:

    Thank you for taking the time out of your day to share you’re life story with us!it was really inspiring.

    -imari and naomi

  3. Tyanna Stuckey says:

    Thank you for coming and sharing your story with us. Your story is very inspiring and I have taken alot of your experiences and learned from them. Thank you again.

  4. Danelle Buffington says:

    Thank you for coming to our school and shraing with us your memories, evnethough it may have been hard for you to do. i even started to tear up a couple times when you talked about the falling stars. I really enjoyed hearing of your stories. once again, thank you:)

    • gelbaum says:

      Thank you very much for your comment. I do choke up sometimes when I read the chapter about returning prisoners and falling stars, and it’s gratifying to know that it has the same affect on you. So, once again, I thank you.

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