|EMSB SPECIAL NEEDS ADULT STUDENTS TO BE PART OF INTERNATIONAL HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY|
MONTREAL, JANUARY 23, 2008- Special needs students from the English Montreal School Board’s Galileo Adult Centre in Montreal North will be among those on hand at the Montreal Holocaust Museum (5151, Côte Ste–Catherine Road in Snowdon) this Sunday, January 27 (10:30 a.m.) to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Teachers Gail Bernstein, Allison Truchan and social services & family liaison Lu Termini embarked on a Holocaust education project last October after learning about materials at the museum from the noted book and stage production of Hana’s Suitcase. The latter tells the dramatic story about Hana Brady, a young Czechoslovakian Jew who died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, leaving behind a small suitcase with her name written on its side. In 2000, her suitcase was exhibited at a Japanese Holocaust Education Centre, where curator Fumiko Ishioka began to investigate Hana's short life with the assistance of a group of local schoolchildren. Their research lead them to Hana's older brother, George Brady, who survived the Holocaust as a labourer and later settled in Toronto. Hana's Suitcase has become an international phenomenon, now available in 40 countries. Much like The Diary of Anne Frank, the book is used in schools to educate children about the atrocities of the Holocaust, and its popularity is growing at an exponential rate.
Not only did the Galileo students visit the museum, they also saw the Hana’s Suitcase play which was presented in Montreal in November by Geordie Theatre Productions. “We engage in daily discussions with our students pertaining to current and historical events using the internet, newspaper, television and other media,” Bernstein explained. “This was a natural extension for many reasons.”
On Sunday, letters the students wrote about the project will be displayed at the Holocaust Centre. The teachers will be part of a panel discussion about the importance of commemorating the Holocaust and how this work influences Montrealers, especially young people. “Our students have been grouped and labeled, they have been separated from others in school, camp and other activities, they have been victims of stereotypes and have generally been treated differently throughout their lives,” says Bernstein. “As they soon discovered, they would have been a targeted group during the Holocaust.
Besides its wide array of academic and literacy programs for students aged 16 and over, the Galileo Adult Centre also has an excellent special needs component. There are more than 30 students enrolled this year, with two teachers and a liaison between the school, families and social services. Students range in age from 22 through to those 40 and over. The focus is on social integration. Feeder schools include Summit, Mackay, Paul VI and Liberty High in Laval. About half travel independently by public transportation while the others arrive via adapted transport. They all live at home with their families.
The program itself is comprehensive in that it includes all of the academic subjects that are functional for everyday living. This includes money management, budgeting, language arts, arts & crafts, computers, human relations, cooking, work study, physical education, community living outings and travel training. They also run a daily breakfast program modelled around a restaurant or café where the students do everything from setting and cleaning up, wait tables, collect and count money, do inventory, shop for groceries and cook. On Friday, a very special breakfast or lunch is prepared. The proceeds are used to buy the groceries, go out for meals or order in and sometimes to purchase other odds and ends for the kitchen. Outings such as apple picking, sugaring off, museums, plays and movies occur throughout the year.
“Character education is infused into all levels of our program,” says Bernstein. “Respect, kindness and other qualities are discussed to help them succeed socially and vocationally. Treat others as you would want to be treated is a theme we stress regularly.”
Michael J. Cohen