KNPR

Las Vegas Teacher Aims To Increase Holocaust Knowledge Among Students

img-20190713-wa0006.jpg

Mitchell Kalin along with other educators on a trip to Israel to better learn how to teach students about the Holocaust.

Many remember learning about the Holocaust for the first time.

Whether it's the teacher who taught it, the photographs or the startling statistics -- the memories of that first introduction to that time in history can be vivid ones. 

A study conducted by the Claims Conference, however, says that 22 percent of Millennials have never heard of the Holocaust. That number may grow as time goes on. 

One middle school teacher in Las Vegas has a passion for teaching the Holocaust to his students, in a way they will understand and relate with. 

Mitchell Kalin created an after-school Holocaust education program, and recently traveled to Israel with a program called Echoes & Reflections. He went with 34 other educators from around the country in a program designed to help educators teach the Holocaust to their students effectively and confidently. 

“It is absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” Kalin told KNPR's State of Nevada.

The trip was sponsored by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, the Anti-Defamation League and the Shoah Foundation.

“Their goal is to help middle school and high school teachers more effectively teach the Holocaust to kids,” he said.

Support comes from

After 10 days in Israel, Kalin believes is now able to do that even though he has been teaching kids about it for 15 years.

He said one of the big messages from the course is that it is important to talk to kids about the personal stories of the Holocaust. 

Kalin has been doing that since he moved to Las Vegas and had survivor Lydia Lebovic talk to his classes. Lebovic would come to his school and others around the Las Vegas Valley to tell her story of being in Auschwitz, surviving it and surviving forced labor in Germany.

Lebovic died in October.

While at Yad Vashem, Kalin noticed a picture of Lebovic at the camp. He pointed her out to his fellow attendees and was able to tell her story - again. 

It is often said that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Kalin firmly believes that and it is one of the reasons he emphasizes the Holocaust in his classes.

“If students don’t know about the past, you can’t correct the mistakes of the past,” he said.

And it is more relevant than ever.  Kalin says he tries to talk to his students about how things happening now can relate to what happened before the rise of Nazi Germany.

Kalin also feels like there is more urgency to his message.

“Now seeing the increase in anti-Semitism around the world and in the U.S. there is more urgency because I feel like message might not be getting out there enough and I need to do my part to make sure it does get out there,” he said.

For Kalin, teaching history and the Holocaust's place in it isn't just about facts and dates but about informing students of the world and their place in it.

“We get paid to try to get good test scores for kids, but to me, I want to make my kids better citizens, and if you teach them about the Holocaust and if you reach them. They become better citizens,” he said.

Guests

Mitchell Kalin, teacher, Leavitt Middle School 

KNPR and NPR Thank-You Gifts including t-shirts hoodies and cap