Upstander Contest : Judi Freeman Wins Educator Grant

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 3:00am

On November 26, Facing History and Ourselves announced the grand prize winner of the Upstander Contest, an initiative that celebrates those educators, administrators, and school staff who have taught their students the importance of participating in a democratic society. Judi Freeman, a history teacher at the Boston Latin School in Massachusetts, will win a $5,000 grant to continue her inspiring work in her school and community. 

The Upstander Contest began with 700 submissions - extraordinary educators from around the world that make a difference to students, colleagues, parents, and community members. From those, 20 educators went on to the semi-finals. You voted five into the final round. From Toronto to Los Angeles, these five teachers and administrators are inspiring their students to examine the world around them and encouraging them to stand up and speak out in the face of injustice. Get to know them here and help us congratulate Judi - post a comment on our Facebook wall today

 

Lauren Boccia
Memphis, TN
Facing History and Ourselves & Freshman Studies Teacher
Grade 10

1. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life

I was very lucky to be raised by the teacher that made the biggest difference in my life. Growing up, my mother taught me that having a strong work ethic fosters a sense of ownership and pride.

2. What is your proudest teaching moment?

I can’t help but wonder at the end of each semester, “What will my students choose to take with them?” Recently a former Facing History student of mine shared with my current class a reflection of her experience with the Holocaust and Human Behavior course. “Trust the process and be open to listening to each other,” she said. “The things discussed in here important.” I knew then that the Facing History class can help these young women to become upstanders, to see that each person has a responsibility to be active citizens.

3. By looking at me, you couldn’t tell…

By looking at me, you couldn't tell that I love to collect owls!

4. If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?

I would like to have dinner with Mother Teresa. Her messages seem simple in theory, but learning to treat one another with dignity and respect can be difficult when we are confronted with how to act out these principles.

5. Why does Facing History matter?

The training that we receive makes the difference in our ability to move from being good teachers to teachers who are relevant and inspirational to our students. Each time I participate in the ongoing opportunities for growth and renewal that Facing History provides, I feel more equipped to take my students to a place where they will examine their ethics, their morals and their willingness to participate in making their own history.

 

Judi Freeman
Boston, MA
Facing History and Ourselves
Grade 11

1. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life

In addition to his brilliance as a historian and an educator, my doctoral advisor Robert (Bob) Herbert was an exceptional mentor and role model because he was the most generous of teachers, really giving 1,000% to his students. He was simply a real, genuine human being and what he taught me is that every contact matters. That people matter. That being inclusive and generous and caring really makes a difference.

2. What is your proudest teaching moment?

There are so many. Oh my. Just a few weeks ago we were exploring thorny issues of race and class. Students studied the school's cafeteria and patterns of behavior in the classroom. When sharing their findings, several of the students noticed that they had seated themselves in such a way that they, too, were separated by skin color. It was an "aha" moment that the students created for themselves, when they realized that they were adhering to the very patterns that they were tracking and critiquing.

3. By looking at me, you couldn’t tell…

That I am not using my left eye. Seriously - no active vision in my left eye. Ironically, I learned Braille while I was in college. Also: I've written seven books and organized a fair number of art exhibitions that have travelled to museums worldwide.

4. If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?

It's a tie among Upstanders. Would it be possible to have a dinner with both of them? First would be Eleanor Roosevelt (though I hear she was not a great cook). However, what an interesting conversation we would have. The other person would be early civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, whose history I always teach because I think that students need to know that individuals stood up and did make a difference in the face of overwhelming challenges and violence.

5. Why does Facing History matter?

The idea of engaging in student-centered learning, in which students ask big questions that ultimately are unanswerable but that drive learning as students grapple with the issues embedded in those questions, is quintessentially Facing History. To "face history" - to wrestle with, wrinkle one's forehead at, cry about, laugh in frustration, wonder about, have restless sleep from the thorniest aspects of history - is to truly study what really matters: the big moral and ethical questions of our world.

 

Katherine Geers
Fremont, CA
English
Grade 10

1. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life

I have had many teachers who made a difference in my life. But the two teachers who have been most influential are my parents. They have taught me the importance of integrity and honesty, and to be kind, generous, and compassionate towards all who share the world in which we live.

2. What is your proudest teaching moment?

My proudest moment is always when I see that my students have internalize and claimed ownership of our class teachings and discussions related to the universe of obligation. It is these students’ desire to make a difference and to stand up for others and for what is right that I find most rewarding.

3. By looking at me, you couldn’t tell…

My life experiences and interests are quite diverse.

4. If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?

Past: Jesus. Present: Nelson Mandela

5. Why does Facing History matter?

In a confusing world where students often receive mixed messages or are encouraged to think only for themselves, Facing History plays a vital role in helping teachers like me connect the curriculum students learn in their classrooms to their personal lives. Teachers are able to challenge students’ understanding of who they are and who they want to become.

 

Ben Gross
Toronto, Canada
Learning About Genocide
Grade 11

1. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life

My professor of American history had a great sense of humour, a huge amount of knowledge, and a willingness to let me research and write about topics that were a bit off the beaten track. That encouragement to explore parts of history that are often overlooked inspired me to look not only deeper, but in different places for the important causes and consequences in history.

2. What is your proudest teaching moment?

Last year, with the help of a Margot Stern Strom Teaching Award from Facing History, a guest artist came into our classroom and worked with students on issues of connecting to art to themes of injustice, memory, and awareness. We hosted a juried exhibition of the student work at an art gallery in Toronto. The event was supposed to end at 8:30, but there I was at 9:30 with four 16-year-olds talking with Holocaust survivors about their experiences and the students’ work. They were learning first-hand what it feels like to face, honour, and learn from history.

3. By looking at me, you couldn’t tell…


That I love to play hockey, but I guess you could tell that from the Canadian part!

4. If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?

I would love to sit down and have a conversation with Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who was in command of the United Nations peacekeeping mission for Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. But from all of history, I’d have to go with Mahatma Gandhi to gain a better understanding of how his philosophy and practice of nonviolence developed.

5. Why does Facing History matter?

Facing History matters because it provides a proven structure for teachers who are interested in getting young people deeply involved in understanding and caring about themselves and a whole world full of people.

 

Jose Luis Navarro IV
Los Angeles, CA
Social Justice
Principal

1. Tell us about a teacher that made a difference in your life


Mr. McHarg, my 9th grade History teacher, had the skill to teach, but more importantly he had the will to teach - the will to stand between me and my bad decisions.

2. What is your proudest teaching moment?

I feel fortunate and blessed to have not just one moment, but a multitude of proud moments. It seems that every time I think I have this question nailed, the incident or event I have in mind is trumped by another one. The resiliency and capacity for change my students and teachers possess is humbling and makes me proud just to be part of their journey.

3. By looking at me, you couldn’t tell…

I was born in Japan.

4. If you could have dinner with one person from history, who would it be?

I would jump at the chance to talk about compassion, sacrifice, and strength with Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Addams. I would love to sit across from Nelson Mandela and learn about forgiveness and reconciliation.  I would be intimidated, but I would meet with George Washington and ask him about his unwavering commitment to his ideals in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  I could go on and on, but if forced to choose just one I would like to eat a vegetarian dinner with Mahatma Gandhi and learn about reverence and fighting for all living things.

5. Why does Facing History matter? 

Facing History is important because of what it has taught me and thousands of other teachers:
I learned how to make the role of a teacher powerful.
I learned that I don’t teach history, I teach students.
But ultimately I learned how to use my curriculum as a means to change this world - one student at a time.

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Learn more about the Upstander Contest here

Facing History’s Julia Rappaport edited this article. For questions or tips on what Facing History is doing in your community, email her at Julia_Rappaport@facing.org