Campus News

New UK-Led Initiative to Enhance Kentucky K-12 Holocaust Education

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 31, 2022) A new initiative led by Jewish Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky will provide educators from across the Commonwealth with the professional development and teaching tools necessary to enhance K-12 Holocaust education.

Funded by a grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE), the UK-JHFE Holocaust Education Initiative will create opportunities for interdisciplinary content sharing, pedagogical training and collaborative planning.

The program aims to empower Kentucky teachers to meet the challenges of state-mandated legislation. In 2018, the Kentucky state legislature passed the Ann Klein and Fred Gross Holocaust Education Act, which requires Holocaust education be taught in all middle and high schools.

“The passage of this act ​speaks to the importance and necessity of Holocaust education, especially as anti-Semitism rises across the country and in Kentucky,” Janice Fernheimer, Ph.D., the Zantker Charitable Foundation Professor of Jewish Studies, said.​ “​It is a daunting task for Kentucky teachers to create and implement the curriculum to satisfy this mandate, and this is where we at UK can help.”

Last fall, faculty members in Jewish Studies and the UK College of Education collaborated with teachers in Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) on a pilot program of the initiative for UK students training to be teachers, and its success inspired the team to launch another pilot workshop for FCPS in January of this year.

“After our initial Holocaust Education workshop in October 2021, we received a small grant to run a pilot workshop for Fayette County Public School teachers in January 2022,” Karen Petrone, Ph.D., professor in the Department of History, said. “Then, we received a larger grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence to carry out the training of Holocaust educators across the state during the 2022-2023 academic year.”

This summer, the program will train 20 educators as “teacher-leaders.” Once trained, they will collaborate to build regionally based Holocaust education workshops. The goals are multi-layered — to recruit and train teachers to ethically educate about the Holocaust, create curricular materials that can be used by fellow educators (whether they attend training or not) and launch a website for sharing and distributing materials.

To carry out the grant, a steering committee of experts from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and FCPS, as well as two Louisville educators has been formed. UK’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning is also collaborating on the development of instructional materials.

The initiative builds upon the university’s robust Jewish Studies program, which was first established as an interdisciplinary minor in 1996.

In recognition of their vision and leadership, Fernheimer and Petrone have been named a recipient of the Hoffman-Rosenberg President’s Award. The honor is given annually to a volunteer or program that has represented long-term dedication to the Jewish community and to the goals of the Jewish Federation. The awardee is selected by the president of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass.

“Our goal in this project is for UK faculty to use their expert knowledge to empower Kentucky teachers,” Fernheimer explained. “We will train teacher-leaders with extensive middle and high school classroom experience to train and empower their peers — creating networks of experts at the local level and a sustainable model for educational excellence.”

For additional information and questions, contact Karen Petrone.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.