Our obligation is to give meaning to life and in doing so to overcome the passive, indifferent life.” ~Elie Wiesel
Heather Hollands teaches English 10 and Publishing Journalism at Gwinn High School. If there is one thing she knows for sure, it is that students need to know they have a voice, that there is meaning to life, and that their own lives will be much fuller if they are not indifferent to the world around them. She has been studying and teaching about the Holocaust for several years to help her students analyze why it is so vital that the history, lessons and remembrance of the Holocaust be passed to a new generation, and apply their understandings to think critically about today’s genocides occurring in countries like Rwanda, Sudan, and Chechnya. What suggestions do they have to combat and prevent prejudice, discrimination and violence in their community? Heather hopes to develop empathy in her classroom. “Students, too, need to make decisions whether to act or not to act when they see prejudice in the halls, or when they hear of suffering on the news. We can choose to be bystanders…or we can choose to use our voices.”
A passion for learning took her to New York City during the summer of 2007 to the Holocaust Educator’s Network where she met with survivors and learned their stories.

"Now I carry these and many more stories from Giesela, Irving and other Holocaust survivors who have shared their testimonies. I will pass them along to my daughters and my high school students. Like the grandfather’s ring handed with trust from a Holocaust survivor to Alice Braziller’s student, Jonathon, I have been handed a legacy from Olga Lengyel. She carried the burden of a fatal choice she made to say her sons were younger than they were. As a mother myself, I can only imagine what strength she needed to just continue to live, let alone to pass along that history to save future mothers, fathers, and children. I embrace Olga’s strength of spirit, and this is what I know I must do to carry it on: Help my students develop empathy. In Irving’s words, “We have to care for our fellow human beings. We are, in fact, our brother’s keeper.”

Over the years Heather’s students have used different avenues to write about their learning. Students create timelines, study vocabulary, read first-person accounts, watch films, and read books. Her Advance Placement students read Night and responded to Oprah’s essay question, “Why is Night still relevant today?” Another class presented a multi-genre book project for discussion. As her tenth graders read, they post ongoing reflections to the Moodle news forum on the district website. Some students’ postings are very controversial and lead to some heated debate while others summarize what they have learned. Heather wants students to devote enough time reading, researching, and discussing so that they learn to recognize the complexities and think about events critically.

As an educator she has been recognized by Gwinn Area Community Schools as 2008 Teacher of the Year, Michigan Reading Association’s 2006-2007 Educator of the Year Grades 7-12, and the 2005-2006 Reading Teacher of the Year Grades 7-12 for the Marquette Alger Reading Council. Professionally she’s been an active member of the Michigan Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, and former state coordinator for the NCTE Literary Magazine competition.

You have a flair for words. Those six words scrawled in red pen at the bottom of my paper are what it took to motivate me in tenth grade to become a better writer… Seventeen years later, I still carry those words with me and remember the teacher who blessed me with them. Now that I am an English teacher myself, I sometimes wonder to what extent I am reaching my own students. Am I an influential teacher? Her reflection, “A Little Praise, a Very Long Way” will reveal lessons that influenced a reluctant student to begin writing.
“One Dream Leads to Another: An American Legacy” written about the influence of her Finnish great-grandmother, is a first place essay in the One Book One Community adult category. Published in Marquette Monthly, January, 2007.
“Two Berries” recalls her grandmother’s influence on her life. View at Digital Stories on this wikispace or visit Heather's page at http://nwpmichigan.ning.com/group/upperpeninsulawritingproject

Heather shares the role of Associate Director of Youth Programming and Continuity with Amy Laitinen and helps coordinate the annual Fall Writing Marathon celebrated each October. She is also the editor of Voices, Visions and Verse, an anthology of Upper Peninsula K-12 students’ writing and artwork.

Special bonds are often formed at the UPWP retreats through the telling of memorable stories. “I fell in love with the August retreat when I stayed in a cabin in Little Lake in 2001 with Jan Sabin, Mary McCune, and Kathryn
Russell. It was my first time meeting any of them. We had wine and candles and stayed up most of the night giggling and "girl talking." That’s the first time I heard Mary’s “hamburger” story. If you haven’t heard it, you should ask her about it!”

Heather is married and has two preteen daughters, Mikayla and Mackenzie. Her new hobby is watching them play basketball, volleyball and softball. “I don't have an athletic bone in my body, so it's been fun learning about their sports and watching them compete.”


Background: “In 2045 all the Holocaust survivors will be dead with the anniversary of WWII. Find a Holocaust survivor, sit next to him and talk to him. Get to know that person as a human being, a child. Who were his grandparents? Who were his neighbors? What were his prejudices? His loves?
Then ask the questions everyone asks: How did persecution get started? How did you react? How did your parents react? Get to know the Holocaust itself. Then move on to liberation. How did this transformation take place in you? You become this person, partially.
To have empathy for a million people is difficult, but to have empathy for one person is easy. A passion for compassion, that’s what we need.”
~Irving Roth, Holocaust Survivor

Objective: Introduce ourselves to each other. Create a collage that depicts your outer appearance and the inner you.
Note: This activity was conducted at the summer seminar in NYC to introduce participants. A person’s outward appearance often disguises his/her true inner qualities.
· paper bag, box, or poster board
· photographs, artifacts
1. Attach photographs, artifacts, words that are “common knowledge” about you (the “you” that is known by most people) to the outside of a paper bag, box, or one side of a poster board.
2. Inside the box, bag, or other side of a poster board place photos, artifacts, and words that reveal the “inner you.”
3. Use your judgment regarding what is school appropriate.
4. Your completed project will be presented to the class.

Heather Hollands
English 10/Publishing Journalism Teacher, Gwinn High School

UPWP Associate Director of Youth Programming and Continuity
Editor, Voices, Visions and Verse