By Tess Wahlmeier
LINCOLN (SNR) - Tom Seib and Lauren Funk, teachers at Pius X High School in Lincoln, will conduct a panel presentation on Holocaust education during the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, held Nov. 19-22, in Minneapolis.
Seib and Funk will be joined by former Pius X teachers, Jane Connealy and Katie Elsener, to share how Holocaust education and efforts to improve student writing abilities have been integrated into the curriculum.
During “Transformative Stories from Pius X High School; How Holocaust Education Changed a School,” attendees will learn how Pius X teachers created a culture that inspires educators to use the Holocaust and other social justice teachings to reach students, improve literacy, and touch the community at large.
“Teaching the Holocaust, as Pope Francis said in 2015 when he addressed the issue of the Armenian genocide, is necessary for humanity,” Connealy said. “Tom Seib begins the discussion about the Holocaust with this genocide and brings participants to modern genocides taking place in the Middle East.”
In their panel presentation, the Pius X contingent will examine how Pius X’s school culture and private classroom practices evolved, how teachers’ use of literature and writing across disciplines changed, and how educators became more confident in their teaching, fostering a joy in sharing ideas with colleagues and the larger community.
Seib, chair of the social studies department at Pius, said, “the catalyst for change at Pius X was a combination of the implementation of a school-wide goal of improving writing across the curriculum which was implemented in 2005-06, and the large number of Pius X teachers who participated in the summer Holocaust seminar taught by Jane, Katie and me.”
The proposal for the presentation panel was written and submitted by Connealy, Seib, Funk, and Elsener to highlight the work that Pius teachers began and continue to employ in the classroom. It was selected for the conference from more than 1,500 applications.
“The work that Katie, Jane, and Tom have done to educate students and teachers on this subject matter is so important,” said Funk, a 2007 Pius X graduate who now teaches English I and AP Literature there. “I was privileged to have all three of them as my own teachers. They shaped who I was as a student and my own pedagogy as a teacher. I feel it is crucial to carry on their work in my own classroom and I am blessed to have them as mentors and collaborators.”
Connealy said studying the Holocaust helps students to understand the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in any society. It also helps develop an awareness of the value of pluralism and an acceptance of diversity.
“Genocides are not inevitable if people are taught to recognize the signs and consider the conditions that lead to genocide,” she said.
Students explore the dangers of remaining silent, apathetic, and indifferent to the oppression of others, and think about the use and abuse of power as well as the roles and responsibilities of individuals, organizations, and nations when confronted with civil rights violations and/or policies of genocide.
“Seeing Christ in someone whose history, language or religion is different from our own may be difficult, but we are all children of God and called to afford His love and dignity to all,” Connealy said. “We must stand up for those whose voices are silenced. A Catholic school is blessed to be able to openly discuss everyone’s right to life and recalling the Holocaust helps us to remember that all it takes for evil to succeed is for good men and women to do nothing.”
Pius X High School earned recognition as a 2014 School of Excellence by the Catholic Education Honor Roll, ranking it amongst the top five percent of Catholic high schools in the country. Now in its 60th year, Pius X has grown to more than 1,225 students in grades 9-12, and continues to be guided by Pope St. Pius X’s motto, “Restore all things in Christ.” As the central Catholic high school in Lincoln, Pius X’s mission is to enrich the mind, heart and soul of each student through a Christ-centered, Catholic environment that provides academic excellence and preparation to achieve a meaningful, faith-filled life.
Pius X High School contributed to this article.