03/20/2006

SPLC Shares 'Survivor' With Educators

Jeff Sapp, a Teaching Tolerance curriculum specialist and writer, presented the Center's award-winning education kit, One Survivor Remembers, to an education conference March 9 in Las Vegas. The kit tells the story of Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein.

The Middle Level Leadership in Education Conference, sponsored by the McDougal Littell division of Houghton Mifflin Co., included teachers, curriculum specialists, school superintendents, administrators, counselors and other educators.

Sapp presented two breakout sessions on the kit's primary document package, which includes recreations of Klein's personal photographs, original documents from her six years under Nazi rule and photographs of Gerda and her husband, Kurt, who liberated her. Sapp and senior designer Val Downes collected the original documents at Klein's home in Arizona while working on the kit.

Klein was scheduled to make a keynote speech at the conference, but due to illness, was unable to attend. Conference organizers asked Sapp to deliver the speech in her absence.

After showing a short clip of the Academy Award-winning documentary film, One Survivor Remembers, Sapp talked about first meeting Klein when she visited the Center in 2004. He vividly recalled her speaking not about grief or loss, but about hope amid her tragic surroundings.

"This hope she always speaks of is why we love her so," he told the crowd. "We have all suffered, and she tells us there is hope, the promise of a new spring."

At the end of the presentation, Sapp gave each conference participant a copy of Teaching Tolerance's One Survivor Remembers kit to take home. "In this way, even though Gerda wasn't here herself, you can take her home with you," Sapp said.

Participants at the conference, though disappointed at not meeting Klein, were moved by Sapp's impromptu keynote address.

Andi Fourlis, a lead professional development specialist in her Phoenix-area school district, sent an e-mail shortly after the conference:

"I want to thank you for sharing Gerda's story with us. I was so touched after the dinner that I shared your stories with our bus driver back to the hotel. He was so interested that I gave him my kit. He was so incredibly thankful. I want to let you know how powerful your presentations were. Thank you, and please send me another kit!"