MTF Community Update
Museum Teacher Fellowship 20th Anniversary, July 2016
The USHMM celebrated a significant milestone in July of 2016: the 20th Anniversary of the Museum Teacher Fellowship (MTF) program. Over 100 Teacher Fellows returned to the Museum for a three day celebration of two decades of accomplishments. The event provided a unique opportunity to reconnect, introduce new Museum resources, initiatives, and exhibits, and issue a new call to action: to work collaboratively with other Teacher Fellows, universities, Holocaust centers, and institutions to support the Museum’s educational outreach around the country.
Over the course of the three day event, the MTFs were treated to a diverse set of speakers and activities. The Fellows in attendance were given an in-depth perspective about one of the Museum’s newest films, The Path to Nazi Genocide, from director Raye Farr and Education Initiatives Director, Gretchen Skidmore. The film examines the Nazis’ rise and their consolidation of power in Germany. Using rare footage, the film explores their ideology, propaganda, and persecution of Jews and other victims. The MTF class of 2015 designed lesson plans for middle and high school teachers based on each chapter of The Path to Nazi Genocide.
The average visitor to the Museum might not realize the subtle yet meaningful changes the Museum has undergone over the past twenty years to the “Permanent” Exhibition. USHMM Exhibitions Coordinator, Ramee Gentry, gave Fellows insight as to why these changes are made periodically and how they influence the visitor experience. Fellows also learned about plans for future Museum updates.
A highlight for many Fellows was touring a new Museum exhibition, Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust. This exhibit explores the motives and pressures that influenced ordinary citizens during the Holocaust. By moving beyond the traditional categories of “bystanders, victims, perpetrators”, the approach encourages a deeper reflection on the range of behaviors exhibited, the motives and pressures people faced, and choices that were available based on the context in which they found themselves. Taking the information gathered from the exhibit a step further, Dr. Christopher Browning spoke to the Teacher Fellows about his book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Dr. Browning encouraged the Teacher Fellows to consider the individuals and institutions who must be involved at many levels in order for genocide to occur. The newest group of Teacher Fellows, the MTF class of 2016, will be designing lesson plans for students across the country based on the Some Were Neighbors exhibit.
The 20th anniversary celebration was capped off with keynote speaker Eli Rosenbaum, Director of Human Rights Enforcement, Strategy, and Policy at the Department of Justice. Mr. Rosenbaum asked the Teacher Fellows to ponder the question, “What is justice?” He informed the MTFs about ongoing efforts to bring about justice even 71 years after WWII officially ended. Mr. Rosenbaum emphasized how important it is for our students to understand the many forms that justice may take. Fellows were humbled to hear Rosenbaum acknowledge the difference teachers make in the classroom and confirm how important teaching Holocaust history is. The participants conveyed their thanks for his lifelong dedication to protecting human rights.
The pinnacle of the three day event was reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, and being reminded why Holocaust education is more important today than ever. Teacher Fellows share the same passion with each other about passing information along to not only our students, but to our communities. The energy in the room when all of the Teacher Fellows were together was palpable: ideas were exchanged, information was shared, and thoughts were brewing on how to keep the MTF community better connected. This newsletter is one of the first steps being implemented to achieve a more unified MTF community and to increase awareness of new Museum initiatives.