As a teacher, Carol Wyman thought she knew a lot about the Holocaust, but she’ll return to her classroom in September with some fresh perspective from Holocaust survivors, scholars and historians.
This summer, Wyman was one of 19 educators from the United States to take time from their vacations to participate in the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous’ European study program.
The trip, which lasted 11 days and concluded July 16, helped Wyman better connect with the history of the Holocaust through visits to memorials and the sites of former Jewish ghettos and concentration camps in Lithuania and Poland.
“It was a life-changing opportunity, because even if you read the books and study the Holocaust, to actually stand where this happened makes your jaw drop,” Wyman said. “It was just astonishing.”
A German language teacher at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, Wyman, 67, of Phoenix, Md., whose husband is Jewish, has taught the subject for more than 20 years. She has regularly attended the Baltimore Jewish Council’s annual Summer Teachers’ Institute since its inception in 2006 to brush up on her Holocaust knowledge.
Wyman said she engages her students in lessons through literature, movies, documentaries and guest speakers, including Holocaust survivors. One of the biggest takeaways from the trip she plans to implement into her course was the damage the Nazis committed in Lithuania and Poland even before soldiers arrived.
“I had not realized that,” Wyman said. “The ball wouldn’t have gotten rolling quite as much if more people had stood up to this. When the Germans got there, it was like, ‘Holy Mackerel,’ then everything was done with swift efficiency.”
Teachers selected for the JFR’s European study program must be an Alfred Lerner Fellow and have completed the organization’s Summer Institute for Teachers five-day course at Columbia University in New York. Wyman completed the program in 2013 after being nominated for it by Jeanette Parmigiani, director of Holocaust programs at the BJC, and Deborah Cardin, deputy director for programs and development at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.
After waiting three years to go on the trip, Wyman decided to finally seize the chance and pay her own way. Wyman declined to disclose how much it cost her.
Simply put, the experience was “priceless,” Wyman said.