Sherwood Park, AB. — With students and teachers now back in school, everyone’s sharing stories about what they did over the summer break. Few, though, have a story quite like Rita Purdy’s, a social studies teacher at Ardrossan Junior Senior High. “I spent the summer in Jerusalem learning about the Holocaust and best practices for classroom teaching,” she says. “It was an incredible learning experience. And, now, I get to share that learning with students in the classroom, here at home.”

Over the summer, Purdy took part in a 14-day Holocaust Educator Scholarship program in Jerusalem, sponsored by the Canadian Society of Yad Vashem (CSYV). She, along with 23 other Canadians, were selected by CSYV to participate in the program. The group flew to Jerusalem for two weeks of intensive seminars and workshops led by world-renowned experts in Holocaust studies. The focus: How to teach the Holocaust using a multi-disciplinary education philosophy, and, in an age-appropriate manner. “Every year, I teach the Holocaust as part of the curriculum,” says Purdy. “So, that was a big reason I wanted to be selected. It’s an emotional and challenging subject to teach. I want to make sure I am using the best pedagogical strategies to aid the learning and safely bring students in and out of that learning process.”

In addition to seminars and workshops, the group took part in various field trips, visiting the Dead Sea, Masada, Old City of Jerusalem and National Library of Israel. They also got to meet and hear from Holocaust survivor Eva Lang, which, for Purdy, was a moving and powerful experience. “So often we teach the Holocaust by focusing on the perpetrators and telling stories from people other than the survivors,” says Purdy. “When you read about survivors’ experiences and hear their voices, the impact is palpable and better facilitates understanding because it fosters empathy.”

For Purdy, that’s the biggest takeaway: To find ways to teach the Holocaust using stories and voices from the survivors’ perspectives. To help facilitate that, the CSYV plans to work closely with Purdy, and the other 23 scholarship recipients, for the next two years. Over that time, they’ll work collectively to implement various lesson plans using art, music and narratives to tell survivors’ stories about life before, during and after the Holocaust. “It’s a new way to approach it, and one that can be applied to teaching most sensitive topics,” she says. “My hope: To build understanding around diversity and social justice, and to help students recognize and combat various forms of discrimination, in a way that prepares them for life—now and after school.”


Elk Island Public Schools is one of Alberta’s largest school divisions, serving approximately 17,125 students in 43 schools. We are proud to be an integral part of our communities, including Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, Strathcona and Lamont counties, and the western portion of the County of Minburn.



For more information contact:
Laura McNabb, Director, Communication Services, EIPS 780-417-8204 cell 780-405-4902