WAXAHACHIE — In an echo of history’s impactful moments of the Holocaust, educators gathered from all over to enhance their 21st-century classrooms through the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s “2017 Holocaust and Human Rights Educator Conference.”
More than 60 school districts were represented during the event that stretched from July 31 through August 2, and among those in attendance was Michelle Aguilar, a Waxahachie Challenge Academy English teacher.
“Being at the museum, it’s very moving, and definitely enriches my content,” expressed Aguilar. “So having something genuine to show and tell my students about something like this will have them be more attentive to what I’m doing.”
“Just being able to say, ‘I’ve been here, I’ve done this,’ makes a difference,” she added. “The Holocaust is a high-interest topic for me, so I like to do things on this subject because of human rights and standing up for other people.”
According to a press release from the Dallas Holocaust Museum, the conference attendants immersed themselves in topics on human rights through interactive workshops, one-on-one dialogue with Holocaust survivors, and presentations from leading voices in the field.
It goes on to mention that speakers from several groups spoke on diverse issues, including “Becoming No Place for Hate,” “The Surprising History of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement,” “America’s Hidden Slavery,” “Refugees 101,” “Choctaw Nation: An American Indian History of Rights,” and many more issues of relevance.
“We had meetings with survivors, and one of the Holocaust survivors spoke to us about his life and the things that he went through and how he ended up surviving the Holocaust,” Aguilar explained meeting Max Glauben.
Encompassed by the museum’s biographies, it states that Glauben, 88, is a native to Warsaw, Poland. His family’s apartment overlooked a square that saw early fighting in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. He lost all of his family except for his father with whom Glauben was sent to forced labor camps and salt mines. His father did not survive, and Glauben came to the U.S. in 1947 as an orphan.
“There’s a novel that they [the students] read called ‘Milkweed,’ and this particular survivor [Glauben] reflected the story of the novel,” Aguilar pointed out the similarities. “He [Glauben] was the child during the Holocaust, a time that he and his family were in the ghettos where it was locked so no one could get in or out.”
“Well, he was one of the kids that were able to sneak under the walls and get out to steal food for his family. So he and another group of boys would go out and do that, so that’s what happened in Milkweed,” she emphasized. “So it’s cool to see somebody who has that same story and to be able to relate that to the kids is even better.”
As the conference continued, Aguilar also met keynote speaker, Alexandra Zapruder, author, and editor of, “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust.,” which later became MTV’s Emmy nominated documentary film “I’m Still Here: Real Diaries of Teenagers Who Lived During the Holocaust.”
“We also had dinner with other Holocaust survivors, and I got to meet Alexandra Zapruder,” Aguilar recalled. “Then the other part of the seminar was focused on human rights, and so we also heard from people that worked in sex trafficking, LBGTQ community, and different groups that would speak to us about hate and things that are going on in our country that we’re currently dealing with.”
“I also got hear a speaker who survived concentration camps in Cambodia, so that was really interesting because he’s a teacher now in Abilene, Texas. He and his family were able to escape and ended up moving to America, and now he’s a teacher,” she added. “So it shows you what life could be like in America.”
Providing an overabundance of knowledge by learning from the past, Aguilar is confident in her student’s future.
“For them [her students] to see and to show them at different levels, depending on which grade they’re in, they’re learning that the Holocaust did happen and things like that still happen and could happen,” Aguilar paused. “They need to be able to understand that they have a civic responsibility to make sure horrible things don’t happen again."
“So I believe they can learn civic responsibility at a young age, and if we don’t teach it to them, then they’re just going to be apathetic. There are always new things I’m learning, and I’m looking forward to when this module comes up,” she encouraged.
To connect with the Dallas Holocaust Museum, visit dallasholocaustmuseum.org or call (214) 741-7500.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer