Gwinn Teachers to Visit Historical Sites in Poland and Israel

Gwinn, MI – Gwinn High School English teachers Heather Hollands and Amy Laitinen, will join 16 other educators from across the United States, all of whom have received fellowships to participate in an educational tour of historical sites in Poland and Israel from March 24 through April 4, 2012. They will travel with Professor Sondra Perl of Lehman College of the City, University of New York, visiting historical sites related to the Holocaust and important contemporary Jewish life. They will then bring their firsthand experience of these places back to their classrooms and communities.

Hollands and Laitinen belong to the Holocaust Educators Network, a program sponsored by the Memorial Library in New York City, which is comprised of a group of more than 100 middle school, high school, and college faculty. The teachers, whose backgrounds and faith traditions all differ, are experts in teaching about the Holocaust, other genocides, and issues of social justice.

Hollands and Laitinen lead a satellite seminar for the Memorial Library in Kalamazoo, Michigan, during the summer of 2011, and worked with teachers from across the state, helping them learn about the Holocaust and enabling them to develop action plans and implement a curriculum that addresses social injustice on both the local and global level.

During this trip, the group is scheduled to visit Poland’s extermination camps including the Warsaw Ghetto, Oskar Schindler’s factory, and the concentration camps including Majdanek and Auschwitz. Their journey will be made more personal as together they will walk where survivors they have met in New York have walked: they will see where Gisela Glaser labored in the Plashov concentration camp, where Irving Roth dug ditches near Birkenau, and where Olga Lengyel used her skills as a physician’s assistant in the infirmary at Auschwitz.

In Israel, the group will see what has grown from the ashes of Auschwitz. They will travel to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where they will be able to tour both sacred and secular sites including Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Rememberance Authority, and visit Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of critical importance of Jewish history.

The group will travel with a Holocaust survivor and a historian and will meet with educators in order to exchange ideas about the rewards and challenges of teaching about the Holocaust. Throughout their trip, Hollands and Laitinen will write about their experiences for a blog created for their students back home at

To learn about the Memorial Library, the Holocaust Educators Network, the Summer Seminar and the Satellite Seminar programs, please visit