School board recognizes South Stanly’s Holocaust literature class

Members of the class met with state leaders in Raleigh

L to R: South Stanly students Lindi Deese, Gabriel Neal, Samantha Hinchcliffe, Eli Thompson, Katherine Cupples, with teacher Meredith Howell (Courtesy: Stanly County Schools)

ALBEMARLE — South Stanly High English teacher Meredith Howell and her Holocaust literature class were honored by the Stanly County Board of Education at its May 7 meeting. The class attended the State of North Carolina Holocaust Commemoration in Raleigh on April 28.

In a presentation coinciding with Holocaust Remembrance Week, Howell, plus five of her students, reflected on their recent trip to the state capital where they spoke with State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and NC Council on the Holocaust Chairman Mike Abramson.

Along with faith leaders, community members and state officials, more than 300 people gathered for the annual Holocaust remembrance service at Temple Beth in Raleigh.

The event included a candlelight vigil, a prayer service led by children of Holocaust survivors, and a public reading of the names of the Holocaust victims.

“We have really expanded what we’re doing in our Holocaust literature elective,” Howell said of her students in her elective last year and this year. “We were asked to bring our students to the North Carolina Holocaust Commemoration held with DPI [NC Department of Public Instruction] to come show our shoe projects that we did last year.”

The high school’s commemorative shoe project is designed to represent and serve as a tribute to the lives of individuals who were affected by the Holocaust.

“Our students who did that last year are here and our students this year are getting ready to begin that process. We’re going to work to highlight even more North Carolina survivors or survivors who called North Carolina their home,” Howell continued.

She’s been asked by the editor of the NC Council on the Holocaust newsletter to have her students write several articles for the newsletter; two are already committed to the June publication and then two more will be writing for the following issue in the fall.

South Stanly students Lindi Deese, Gabriel Neal, Samantha Hinchcliffe, Eli Thompson and Katherine Cupples accompanied their teacher at the podium and provided their own insight into how their Holocaust literature class had made an impact on their learning and empathy skills.

The students also referenced their four-day trip to Washington D.C, where they visited the Holocaust Museum and traveled to different monuments and other educational locations.

“I’d explain this class as an interactive discussion, where we would look beyond the surface with each assignment,” Cupples said. “We as a class became closer to each other and felt more comfortable sharing our opinions. We had opportunities to speak with experts about certain topics and to listen to survivors’ testimonies.”

In 2022, Howell was one of just five teachers in the state awarded a $2,500 scholarship from the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching for the NCCAT Development Foundation’s Holocaust Endowment Fund, an monetary outreach of ongoing support for statewide Holocaust education.

The Gizella Abramson Act, which passed in 2021 and effective this school year, mandates Holocaust education in the state’s public middle and high schools and requires that local districts implement a Holocaust Studies elective.