Dr.Joseph A. Olzacki demonstrates the impact of Holocaust studies can extend beyond the classroom at the primary school level.
Distilling the lessons of the Holocaust and larger genocide studies for primary and secondary school students is not always easy. However, educator Dr.Joseph A. Olzacki has a knack for making it look that way.
Over a multi-decade career in education, Olzacki has been at the forefront of lessons and initiatives that not only expanded the scope of Holocaust education for students but ensured these important studies will continue for generations.
Olzacki’s work demonstrates studies need to exist beyond the classroom, both physically and mentally, to help students fully engage with the scale of genocide and its impact on a group of people.
It also shows the positive impact training and resources can have on primary education in areas impacted by genocide in recent histories, such as Rwanda.
Joseph Olzacki combines past and present to raise awareness
As an educator, Joseph Olzacki has helped implement innovative programs in multiple countries.
In the early 2010s, Dr.Joseph A. Olzacki visited the Republic of Rwanda to help develop programs for training the next generation of teachers in a country impacted by genocide in the 1990s. Olzacki described what he learned and witnessed in Rwanda as humbling as educators focused on nurturing future generations of bright, energetic students to meet the demands of their country and their own personal potential.
Voices of Hope Chair Peter Fishman credited Olzacki with raising awareness of the Rwandan genocide and the importance of tying lessons of the past to modern-day tragedies through the Rwandan Teacher Education Program at the University of Hartford. Examples include hosting panels and lectures, such as the 2014 panel Local Legacies of the Genocide in Rwanda. The event was part of a larger symposium for the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi.
Expanding studies through key partnerships
Voices of Hope is a Connecticut-based non-profit with members who are Holocaust survivors or their descendants.
Joseph Olzacki frequently partnered with the organization to create groundbreaking educational opportunities for primary school students.
The first such initiative was the Identity Project, an effort that focused on both the Holocaust and additional genocides, including Rwanda in 1994 as well as genocide in Cambodia and Sudan.
The Identity Project created a dynamic curriculum designed to promote the acceptance of diversity and help minority students appreciate life challenges via educational efforts. The award-winning program focused on both primary and secondary students with a P-12 curriculum and culminated for over 500 students in an out-of-classroom trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.
Dr.Joseph A. Olzacki also worked with Voices of Hope on efforts to ensure Holocaust and genocide studies are mandated by state law. The effort ended positively in Connecticut and helped create an opportunity for more in-classroom learning and out-of-classroom experiences centered on these important events.