When Hashim Davis heads back to his classroom at Albemarle High School later this month, he’ll be more prepared to help students learn about the Holocaust, thanks to a teaching fellowship he recently received.
Davis was the only teacher from Virginia selected for the Alfred Lerner fellowship through the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. As part of the program, fellows explore the complex history of the Holocaust and discuss new teaching techniques. Twenty other middle and high school teachers from across the country were picked for the fellowship.
A five-day virtual conference this summer gave the fellows the chance to hear from more than a dozen noted scholars in the field. After each lecture, the fellows broke up in to small groups to discuss the presentation and how to teach the concepts to their students, according to a news release.
“There are three main goals of our program, which include: providing teachers with graduate-level courses on the Holocaust; pedagogical connections with other teachers and their curriculum so they learn what’s worked and what hasn’t; and to give them resources for the classroom,” JFR Executive Vice President Stanlee Stahl said in the release.
For more than a decade, Davis has placed particular emphasis on the Holocaust in his history classes. He also has been a teaching fellow with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and applied for the Alfred Lerner fellowship to continue to add his knowledge base.
“I don’t wait until World War II to talk about it,” he said. “I’ve already prepped my students from the beginning with a variety of activities. But once we get to that portion, I feel confident that the students are going to at least come away with knowing more than if they were in another classroom.”
He’ll be teaching U.S. History, World History and the African-American History elective at AHS this coming school year. This will be his second year at Albemarle and 21st in education.
“I think it’s important that our students really understand that when we say about the Holocaust that we cannot let this happen again, it’s not a bumper sticker saying,” he said.
He said he wants students to think about what it means to be indifferent to another individual.
“It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale,” he said. “It can just be something as indifferent as ignoring your classmate or teasing your classmates. While that may not be a genocide, it will lead you to experience that you can put that person that you’ve been indifferent to, you can put them on the margin, and that that’s what I’m trying to get at. To have students really look at themselves and really hone in on asking that question: Am I doing something today that’s going to make a person feel less on the margins?”
Davis said he’s looking forward to applying what he learned at the summer conference to the classroom. He ordered books from the guest lectures and acquired more resources to use in class. He said the guest lecturers, who have varying areas of expertise, provided different lenses to the Holocaust.
“Now that I’ve had this training, it’s going to be a little more fresh, and I can still infuse some of the things that I’ve used before with this component added,” he said.