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Friday, August 03, 2012

SU's Wagner Earns Holocaust Educators Network Fellowship

 

Dr. Diana Wagner
Dr. Diana Wagner
SALISBURY, MD---Dr. Diana Wagner of Salisbury University’s Education Specialties Department is used to assigning homework to her students.

 

But like all good teachers, she also has some of her own.

Upon completing the Holocaust Educators Network’s (HEN’s) annual summer seminar at New York City’s Memorial Library, she was charged with using her experience to help teachers in the Wicomico County area. The goal: Educate them in ways to teach the Holocaust across multiple disciplines as an opening for larger discussions about social justice.

“We’re not just aiming for history teachers,” said Wagner. “There are many ways of teaching the Holocaust through writing, music, art, poetry and even drama.”

Wagner, who received a fellowship to attend the two-week seminar in Manhattan, was one of only 24 participants from the United States and Belgium selected from more than 60 applicants.

“We knew the first day that we were sitting around the table with some pretty special people,” she said.

During the immersive program, participants learned about not only the Holocaust, but genocide in Rwanda and other international events.

“The point is not to spend two weeks learning everything there is to know about the Holocaust,” she said. Their study of that event did not begin until the third day. “The purpose is to apply what we learn to social justice.”

Sometimes, the experience was overwhelming. For Wagner, one such moment occurred at the Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park, located between two of New York’s most powerful symbols—the Statue of Liberty and the former site of the World Trade Center.

It was there that she learned about Jews’ individual identities being stripped during the Holocaust. Men were recognized only as “Israel,” while all Jewish women were renamed “Sarah.” Wagner noted the chilling contrast while attending a Shabbat service at a Jewish temple, parts of which focused largely on the reading of individual names and recognition of families.

“It was life-changing,” she said, adding that on a break during the latter part of the seminar, she returned to the museum for a second look and additional reflection.

 

Wagner found this Holocaust-related work by late artist Sigmund Laufer especially moving.
Drs. Nancy Michelson and Stefani Pautz of the Eastern Shore Writing Project at SU encouraged Wagner to apply for the seminar fellowship. She and Pautz, who was part of HEN’s 2010 seminar, hope to attend the organization’s leadership institute in 2013.

 

Working with the Eastern Shore Writing Project, they hope to host a workshop next summer for local educators interested in teaching the Holocaust.

“A lot of teachers don’t use this content in their areas because it’s so overwhelming,” Wagner said.

She and Pautz would like to bring a HEN satellite program to Salisbury for area teachers in 2014.

Wagner has long been a proponent of social justice. In 2011, she worked with Rutgers University-Newark to develop Safe Zone curricula and training after the suicide of Rutgers-New Brunswick freshman Tyler Clementi raised critical questions about civility and acceptance. She also has conducted two campus climate surveys for Eastern Shore public schools, examining patterns of bullying.

Artistically, Wagner is a musician and director of SU’s Guitars in the Classroom program. She said these interests, coupled with the recent seminar, may inspire her to learn more about the Holocaust from a musical standpoint in an example of the type of cross-discipline study she hopes to promote in local classrooms.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.



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