by George J Elbaum
Castro Valley High School (CVHS) is a comprehensive 9-12 public high school with 2800+ 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 Katie Stacy takes them on a parallel journey using literature including Maus by Art Spiegelman as well as a presentation by a Holocaust survivor. Many students in that grade level have also read The Diary of Anne Frank or Elie Wiesel’s Night.
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. Maus is drawn from personal experiences of a child of survivors, 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 their study of history and literature, but also personal and rooted in the 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, Katie Stacy 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. One result of my talk is that some teachers may now choose to attend an upcoming seminar with Facing History so that they can broaden and deepen their exploration of the subject next year.
The Q & A session is always my favorite part of any presentation because it often focuses not only on facts but also on personal feelings, and today’s session was no exception. What made it especially memorable for me were the personal questions which have never been asked of me in the 200 talks I’ve given (such as “What are you most proud about?”) which required me to pause and dig deeply into my feelings to answer.
My presentation was organized by Katie Stacy and arranged by Jack Weinstein of Facing History and Ourselves, who gave the introduction to my talk with emphasis on the importance of first-hand witness testimony. Other teachers attending the presentation were teacher librarian Dana Adams and Education Specialist Pauline Facciano, and afterwards I enjoyed a brief conversation with Principal Blaine Torpey.