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Calling Kentucky teachers: Enhance Holocaust education through UK-led initiative

By Lindsey Piercy 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 10, 2023)  Teachers across the Commonwealth have the opportunity to enhance K-12 Holocaust education through a University of Kentucky-led training initiative.

Educators can register for online and in-person Holocaust education workshops, offered from late January through early June of 2023.

Funded by a grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund, the UK-JHF Holocaust Education Initiative creates opportunities for interdisciplinary content sharing, pedagogical training and collaborative planning.

The program, launched last May by Jewish Studies in the UK College of Arts and Sciences, aims to empower Kentucky teachers to meet the challenges of state-mandated legislation. In 2018, the legislature passed the Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, which requires Holocaust education be taught in all middle and high schools.

Since 2021, faculty members in Jewish Studies and the UK College of Education have been collaborating with educators across the state to develop a series of workshops specifically focused on Kentucky academic standards.

Recently, the program received an additional $400,000 in funding from the Jewish Heritage Fund — extending the project for at least another year. Using the funding, the UK-JHF Holocaust initiative will begin recruiting for a second round of teacher-leaders.

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our work with teachers across the state on creating ethical, engaging Holocaust education curriculum,” Janice Fernheimer, co-director of the initiative, said. “Given the current public discourse, it is ever more important to help students understand the ways simple, everyday acts have the power to both contribute to and prevent horrific acts of genocide. Each of us can positively impact the world through how we speak to and treat others.”

“Teachers can expect to deepen their knowledge of one of the most harrowing and defining events in world history and to learn instructional approaches that engage students on the questions that still linger a century later," said Kathy Swan, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. "Pairing content expertise of the Jewish Studies program with the instructional expertise of the faculty in Teacher Education offers teachers a good foundation on how to approach hard history in an intellectually meaningful and grade-appropriate manner.”

The goals of the initiative are multi-layered — to recruit and train teachers to ethically educate about the Holocaust, create curricular materials that can be used by fellow educators and to share these materials on the UK Holocaust Education website.

The initiative also builds upon the university’s robust Jewish Studies program, which was first established as an interdisciplinary minor in 1996.

Kentucky teachers interested in participating in the program can find a calendar of events and registration links here. For additional information and questions, contact Karen Petrone or Janice Fernheimer.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.