by George J Elbaum
This was the 4th time I spoke at St. Luke School in the last 8 years, and each time I truly looked forward to returning. My key memories of the previous visits were of an inspirational teacher, Rosemary Conroy, and her 8th grade students who reflected her enthusiasm. My visit today only reinforced those memories, especially of Ms. Conroy’s infectious enthusiasm and her efforts to help her students become good citizens of the world, especially in today’s environment of growing intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia toward the “others.”
St. Luke School teaches more than 300 students in K-8 grades based on the belief that “quality Catholic education teaches the whole child spiritually, emotionally, academically and socially.” The 8th grade Social Studies Curriculum, as organized and taught by Rosemary Conroy, is very intensive as it covers U.S. history, Washington State history, geography, economics, politics, and current events. The curriculum highlights the formative periods of U.S. history: Revolutionary War, development of the Constitution & Bill of Rights, Civil War, WWI and WWII, and it includes an in-depth look at the Holocaust. Where possible, Ms. Conroy invites outside speakers who witnessed first-hand the events being studied, such as the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Nisei relocation program, WWII POW camps and the Tuskegee Airmen.
Rosemary not only teaches but “walks the walk” in her role on the Teacher Advisory Board of the Holocaust Center for Humanity as well as her 3 months of volunteer work in Cambodia. When introducing me to her class this time she said: “I won’t feel too badly if you can’t name the first 10 Amendments when you leave my class in June, but I will be devastated if you can’t accept others and treat them with dignity, respect and kindness.”
The event was attended by 37 8th grade students plus seminarian Alex Nelson, and St Luke teacher Jennifer Fargo, and it was arranged by Julia Thompson, Education Resource Coordinator of the Holocaust Center for Humanity. Two days afterwards we attended the Holocaust Center’s annual Voices for Humanity Luncheon and Rosemary was one of the speakers, giving an impassioned yet very personal speech about supporting all efforts for tolerance, fairness and kindness. The world definitely needs more Rosemarys!