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A&S Professors Collaborate on Effort to Enhance Kentucky K-12 Holocaust Education

By Lindsey Piercy

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 31, 2022) — A new initiative led by Jewish Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky will provide educators from across the Commonwealth with the professional development and teaching tools necessary to enhance K-12 Holocaust education.

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

The program aims to empower Kentucky teachers to meet the challenges of state-mandated legislation. In 2018, the Kentucky state legislature passed the Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, which requires Holocaust education be taught in all middle and high schools.

“The passage of this act ​speaks to the importance and necessity of Holocaust education, especially as anti-Semitism rises across the country and in Kentucky,” said Janice Fernheimer, the Zantker Charitable Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies.​ “​It is a daunting task for Kentucky teachers to create and implement the curriculum to satisfy this mandate, and this is where we at UK can help.”

Last fall, faculty members in Jewish Studies and the UK College of Education collaborated with teachers in Fayette County Public Schools on a pilot program of the initiative for UK students training to be teachers, and its success inspired the team to launch another pilot workshop for Fayette County in January.

“After our initial Holocaust Education workshop in October 2021, we received a small grant to run a pilot workshop for Fayette County Public School teachers in January 2022,” said Karen Petrone, professor in the Department of History. “Then, we received a larger grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence to carry out the training of Holocaust educators across the state during the 2022-2023 academic year.”

This summer, the program will train 20 educators as “teacher-leaders.” Once trained, they will collaborate to build regionally based Holocaust education workshops. The goals are to:

  • Recruit and train teachers to teach ethically about the Holocaust.
  • Create curricular materials that can be used by fellow educators (whether they attend training or not).
  • Launch a website for sharing and distributing materials.

A steering committee of experts from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Fayette County schools and two Louisville educators will lead the effort. UK’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning is also collaborating on the development of instructional materials.

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

In recognition of their vision and leadership, Fernheimer and Petrone have been named a recipient of the Hoffman-Rosenberg President’s Award. The honor is given annually to a volunteer or program that has represented long-term dedication to the Jewish community and to the goals of the Jewish Federation. The awardee is selected by the president of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass.

“Our goal in this project is for UK faculty to use their expert knowledge to empower Kentucky teachers,” Fernheimer said. “We will train teacher-leaders with extensive middle and high school classroom experience to train and empower their peers — creating networks of experts at the local level and a sustainable model for educational excellence.”

For additional information and questions, contact Karen Petrone.

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.