Teacher, student honored for Holocaust education

A Lexington-Richland School District Five teacher and student have received honors from the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust (SCCH).

Dr. Monica Hadwin was named the 2024 Holocaust Educator of Excellence by the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust during a surprise announcement at Chapin Intermediate School. Sixth-grade student Sahasra Ranjith participated and was the winner of Grades 5-8 division of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust Art & Writing Contest. She was surprised during a special announcement at Irmo Middle School.

The 2024 Holocaust Educator of Excellence award is given to educators who exhibit a passion for teaching the meaningful lessons of the Holocaust to their students.

“I am truly honored to receive this award,” Hadwin said. “When asked what I do for a living, I proudly reply that I get to teach as I view my profession as a privilege. My standards and curriculum center on the history of humankind. Through this overarching and comprehensive topic, I am able to help students broaden their collection of historical lenses as they become introspective young adults. I support them as they expand their critical thinking skills, explore the development of moral rigor, and to use this knowledge to become productive members of a global society. To be acknowledged by the SCCH is humbling as this award validates my efforts as an educator to reach all students by teaching them the value of learning history by studying multiple perspectives, atrocities, and opportunities for kindness, hope, and change as we move forward.

In addition to receiving a framed certificate of her award, Hadwin was also presented with a $500 grant to use toward classroom resources.

Hadwin plans to use the classroom resource grant to continue to expand her own knowledge in order to best support teaching her students about the Holocaust through first-hand survivor accounts, novel studies, interactive websites, images and readings. The lessons of the Holocaust include exploring the sheer will to survive in the face of hate, adversity, and trauma, as well as becoming immersed in learning about the importance of law, the roles of government, and the state of humanity. With this award, combined with the foundation’s support, over the next year, Hadwin will participate in several learning opportunities about the Holocaust, other genocides, and crimes against humanity.

The South Carolina Council on the Holocaust’s 2024 State Holocaust Art & Writing Contest had the theme of “Answering the Call of Memory: Choosing to Act.” The contest required students to review the testimony of a Holocaust survivor and incorporate elements of their chosen survivor’s story through their submission. These submissions could be made in the form of art, poetry, prose, or film.

“When I won this award, I was very surprised. But I also feel really proud of myself, because this is a huge honor for me,” Ranjith said. “At first when I started my submission, I struggled a lot to feel Leah Starkman’s (name of the holocaust survivor) pain. Once I watched the interview and got to experience Leah’s emotions, I understood what I needed to write. I would like to thank my teacher, Mrs. Herring, for helping me with this win.”

The South Carolina Council on the Holocaust was established in 1989 through a state legislative mandate. It operates in collaborative partnership with the state legislature and the SC Department of Education to promote awareness about the Holocaust and to honor the survivors and concentration camp liberators who call South Carolina home. To this end, the Council supports teacher training programs, special events that discuss Holocaust history, human rights, and genocide, and annual Holocaust commemorations around the state.