Geography and Humanities teacher Megan De Luca was granted a scholarship this year to attend a 20-day NZ Educators Seminar study at Yad Vashem – The International School for Holocaust Studies in Israel.
She was one of 28 teachers selected from 164 applicants to receive the scholarship through the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.
The seminar consisted of class time learning from world-class university academics on Jewish life and the Holocaust, and day trips around Israel.
The Holocaust has been introduced at ACG Parnell College as a topic at Year 9 for the first time this year, a key motivation for Ms De Luca to apply for the scholarship. “Studying at Yad Vashem equipped me with the tools to make Holocaust education in our middle school programme really meaningful,” she said. “I’ve come back from Israel with so many ideas about how to make this topic engaging and significant for our students.”
Ms De Luca studied Nazi Germany at university and said she has always been fascinated with the ideology and how the Holocaust was able to unfold. She said what she learned could help her teach young people to think about how they conduct themselves.
“I have an interest in the upstanders vs bystanders idea – people who stood up against the Nazi regime and looked for ways to help Jews and other persecuted groups versus those who watched evil unfold. I believe this is such an important message for young people – to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves as watching bullying or discrimination unfold and doing nothing about it is not acceptable.
“Parnell College is a very diverse community and it is important that we all learn to accept and respect our differences.”
Ms De Luca said the experience had been the best professional development she had undertaken, allowing her to soak up knowledge from world experts and gain a richer understanding of Jewish life.
Meeting with Holocaust survivors had been particularly poignant.
“It was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to appreciate the emotional importance of the State of Israel for Jews – something I didn’t quite understand prior to the trip,” she said.
ACG Parnell College principal Russell Brooke said the school fully supported professional development and wanted staff to be as expert as possible. “This includes providing travel opportunities for conferences and opportunities for further study. Fourteen per cent of our staff are on Masters courses for education through our school,” he said.
Ms De Luca’s scholarship was granted through the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand.