Lisa Guthrie started the 2018-19 school year in a new role – assistant principal at Indianapolis’ Franklin Township Middle School East. After more than a decade educating middle schoolers through the lens of mathematics, this year she has a new vantage point. To get ready, Guthrie spent time this summer exploring new perspectives in a different way when she visited CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute where she met the museum’s founder, Eva Mozes Kor.
“I had read about Eva Kor, about how she and her twin sister survived the Holocaust, which was so amazing,” Guthrie said. “And here she was at CANDLES telling us her story first-hand. It was incredible.”
Guthrie was one of nearly 100 K-12 educators taking part in a three-day conference for alumni of Lilly Endowment’s Teacher Creativity Fellowships, a renewal program for teachers, counselors, principals and media specialists. Since 1993, Indiana State University has offered the conference through an Endowment grant to help educators continue to nurture their vocations in education. Guthrie received her Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant in 2013.
The visit was one of several mini-workshops the conference offered. Others included learning to use mindfulness techniques, such as yoga, in the classroom; creating one’s own visual art pieces at Terre Haute’s Swope Art Museum; and attending a baking class at the nearby Clabber Girl Corporation headquarters. Guthrie and about a dozen other educators who chose to go to CANDLES.
Indiana State organizers began offering the visit to CANDLES in 2013 because many educators attending the conference knew about the museum but had never been there. The 90-minute session is designed to inspire educators to be peacemakers in their schools and to encourage them in the critical work of shaping young minds.
Throughout the year CANDLES welcomes approximately 8,000 school-age children when schools and youth organizations take field trips to the museum. After all, education is central to the museum’s mission. Still, welcoming a group of K-12 educators is special, says Dorothy Chambers, executive director at CANDLES.
“We value the chance to help lift up the power of stories and how stories are critical in the education process,” Chambers said. “Eva’s story does that so well. It reminds people of the importance of standing up against oppression and what it means to rebuild a life after trauma.”
This summer, visitors experienced a new approach to storytelling called New Dimensions in Testimony (NDT), an initiative of the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation. To date, Kor is one of 16 Holocaust survivors whose stories have been documented through NDT. Using three-dimensional imaging, USC filmmakers have recorded hours of interviews with Kor about her childhood, her experiences in the camp at Auschwitz, the museum, and her efforts to promote peacemaking and forgiveness. An Endowment grant to CANDLES in 2015 helped fund Kor’s participation in NDT.
Earlier in 2018, CANDLES opened the NDT exhibit, which allows visitors to interact with Kor by asking questions in a virtual interview aided by natural language processing technology. For now, it complements the experience people have when they meet Kor, who turned 84 in 2018, at the museum or during the more than 100 speaking engagements she has each year around the world.
“But we know we cannot have Eva with us forever,” Chambers said. But, she added, this technology ensures that people will be able to interact with Kor’s story and continue to learn from it for years to come.
Extending Teacher Creativity 2018: A Summer Workshop for Teacher Creativity Fellows
Recording of museum founder’s story through the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony