Teachers, Student To Learn About Holocaust During Poland Trip
WHEELING — Three teachers and a student from Ohio County are on their way to an international learning experience in Poland focusing on World War II and the Holocaust’s effect on the country.
Wheeling Park High School art teacher Russ Schultz; his wife, Bridge Street Middle School music teacher Julie Schultz; Triadelphia Middle School teacher Becky DiSaia; and incoming WPHS senior Mandolyn Harkness have been selected to take part in “Poland Personally” — an event coordinated by Classrooms Without Borders. It takes place from June 30 through July 8.
They will join a group of about 30 educators and students from the Pittsburgh area who will take part in memorial services in Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz.
CWB is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization that is dedicated to furthering Holocaust education, according to Jamie Campbell, Wheeling program coordinator for CWB.
The organization provides learning experiences for teachers outside their schools with the hopes they will share their personal observations to their students in the classroom, and these trips also are open to interested students.
History, culture, politics and current events are experienced “live” through learning tours abroad with a focus on Holocaust and Israel education, according to information provided by CWB.
“If we reach students, they can reach so many students during their careers,” Campbell said. “But if we reach out to students, then they take those lessons throughout the rest of their lives to college, their careers, their families and their children.”
CWB focuses not just on the Holocaust, but the lessons that can be learned from the Holocaust “and how they are still timely,” she said.
The concepts of acceptance and diversity are pushed, as is building a community with multiple perspectives and people rather than separation, according to Campbell.
Harkness said she became interested in taking trip through her experiences in the World War II Nazi Germany history class taught by Jacob Galik at WPHS, who participated in Classrooms Without Borders trips in the past.
It will be her first trip outside of America.
“I’m excited and kind of nervous,” she said. “I expect the trip to be very emotional. I’m preparing by reading, but I don’t think you can prepare for this. You have to experience it.”
Harkness has plans to major in music education at West Virginia University after graduating from WPHS next year.
She will have the opportunity to share her musical skills alongside the music teacher Julie Schultz, who will serve as music coordinator for the trip. Julie said music will be a part of the memorial programs in which the group will participate in Poland.
She first became interested in applying for the trip to Poland after hearing the accounts from other teachers who have been involved with CWB programs.
“I talked to my husband (Russ) about it because we both had always been interested in history, and when I told him we would be studying the Holocaust at these locations he applied as well.”
Russ Schultz said he grew up in the German neighborhood that is Center Wheeling, and has always had an interest in World War II and the German connection.
“I couldn’t let it go…,” he said of the trip. “I always thought (of the Nazis) these are Germans? I am German. How does this connect? It didn’t make sense.
“It seems like a soul-searching, fact-finding thing also.”
DeSaio teaches reading, but often has history teacher Brad Sorge or gifted teacher Barry Rideout come in to her classroom to share their historical knowledge about the Holocaust. Among the reading selections for her class is the book “Night” by Elie Weisal, which tells the story of his father’s experiences in a German concentration camp.
“They (students) never seem to understand how this could happen,” DeSaio said of the Holocaust.