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Literacy Leaders Undergo Transformative Experience Through Warren Fellowship

This May, a group of students in the Texas Christian University’s College of Education took a week-long trip to the Holocaust Museum of Houston as part of the Warren Fellowship program. The trip was a culmination of studying the Holocaust and antisemitism in Jan Lacina’s Literacy Leadership class. Lacina is the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education and associate dean of graduate studies in the TCU College of Education.

“I was compelled to integrate course goals, readings, and discussions about the Holocaust into my Literacy Leadership class because of recent antisemitic acts that took place in Texas,” Lacina said.

“Not only does this work relate to the DEI goals of the college and University, but it is important for all of humanity.”

Contemplating how she could continue making an impact with this work, Lacina nominated her 10-student class for the Warren Fellowship through the Holocaust Museum Houston. The Warren Fellowship was created in 2003 and has over 400 alumni.

“The Fellowship’s main objective is to provide new teachers with the necessary historical and pedagogical tools for teaching the Holocaust from the onset of their teaching careers,” said Wendy Warren, Director of Educator at Holocaust Museum Houston.

Warren explained that participants have the opportunity to work with scholars, educators, and survivors of the Holocaust. “As the last generation to hear directly from survivors, the Fellows have a unique opportunity and responsibility to carry their stories forward,” she said.

Anna Mayes, a graduate student studying Curriculum and Instruction: Language and Literacy, said that meeting that survivors themselves was the most impactful part of the week.

“My group had the honor of speaking with Bill Orlin, a Jewish man originally from Poland, who as a child lived on the run from the Nazis from 1939-1945… his story of survival and his life after the war as a soldier in the U.S. Army taught us that democracy is a privilege we must protect at all costs,” said Mayes.

The experience at the Holocaust Museum also reinforced the work done in Lacina’s class. Tiffany Nakamura, a graduate student also studying Language and Literacy explained that the museum’s artifacts and primary sources were helpful in strategizing how to teach about the Holocaust to an elementary audience. 

The Fellowship experience was a profound one for both Lacina and her students. Bianca Tucker, a Language and Literacy graduate student who participated in the Fellowship, discovered a newfound passion for Holocaust education and the critical role literacy and instruction plays in it.

“Teachers are not only tasked with conveying history in their classrooms, but also have the responsibility to do so with careful consideration of what resources they draw upon to ensure it is done with respect and accuracy.”

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