Hipp gains chance to study Holocaust in Jerusalem

Posted 4/7/22

What started as a casual interest in how to better teach the Holocaust to students has become a passion for Quitman Elementary School reading interventionist Jeannie Hipp.  Her heart for people …

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Hipp gains chance to study Holocaust in Jerusalem


What started as a casual interest in how to better teach the Holocaust to students has become a passion for Quitman Elementary School reading interventionist Jeannie Hipp.  Her heart for people initially drew her into Holocaust studies. She describes herself as “a big culture person.” Hipp said her experiences at Holocaust educator conferences have “opened my eyes to a lot of different avenues” on how to make the Holocaust real for students.

It began five years ago when Hipp attended a Region 7 conference during the summer. It was different from others as it was held in a synagogue with special touches, such as kosher snacks offered in lieu of the usual conference snacks.

The conference was different from anything she had attended and it “ignited a flame with me.” Hipp attended the same conference the next summer to make sure she didn’t miss anything the first time. 

While she was at the second conference, she learned about a national conference called the Belfer National Conference for Educators, held annually in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Hipp applied and was accepted. She spent four days alongside 140 educators from across the country learning the best practices on teaching the Holocaust to students of all ages.

Hipp said that the conference was intense, studying from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. After this conference, Hipp said she was hooked. Hipp knew that after attending these conferences, she had a much better understanding on the proper way to teach kids at each age about the Holocaust, but she felt like there was more that she still needed to learn. 

She found the opportunity she was looking for when she learned of an international conference that allows educators to study in Poland at Auschwitz or in Jerusalem at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Hipp said she decided to apply and didn’t have a preference about which place to attend. Unfortunately, she received word that she had been chosen as an alternate. Then COVID hit, and the organizers postponed the conference. Around the beginning of this year, the organizers decided to finally proceed with the event, and due to life changes among the participants, they had four slots available. Hipp had been one of the first alternates chosen, so she was able to fill one of those slots. 

Hipp will be one of 30 teachers going to Jerusalem to study at the World Holocaust Museum for 10 days in July. Only one other teacher is from Texas.

Hipp says that the opportunity she is most excited about is meeting with Holocaust survivors and getting to hear their stories. Hipp has already adopted two Holocaust survivors as pen pals through an organization called Abundant Hope International. This trip will allow her to actually interact with Holocaust survivors in person and learn history first-hand. Hipp believes that this opportunity will help her help students not only understand the tragedy of the Holocaust but also the inspiration that can be found from its survivors. 

Hipp said that when she looks back at that time period in history and sees how people fought to survive the labor camps – from babies through elderly – she feels inspired. She said that if those people and those children can survive the concentration and labor camps, and if those orphans can grow up to have fulfilling lives, then she can get through anything she has to face.

Hipp also likes to think about a statement from Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor in her memoir “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz.” Hipp said that when someone would say they were going through a bad/hard time, Ms. Kor would always say, “It’s not as bad as Auschwitz, you know!” That resonates with Hipp, putting life into perspective. It also supports why the Holocaust should be taught.

There are many lessons to be learned from history but also much inspiration to be found in the stories of the survivors. Hipp hopes to tie all of that together and pass that on to the students in Quitman through a strong curriculum that she hopes to create and incorporate in the classrooms.

According to Hipp, teaching the Holocaust is not easy, and teaching it in ways that are age-appropriate can present a real challenge. Hipp explained that with younger kids, such as kindergartners, you can’t really teach the Holocaust. But as Hipp explained, “…what you can teach about is kindness or some type of tolerance or love or community instead.”

Hipp explained that with each upper grade “the content will get a little more in-depth.” As an example, she spoke about last year’s fifth graders reading “The Devil’s Arithmetic.”

Hipp said that the students asked “amazing, intelligent questions.” She was impressed with how the students kept “digging and digging deeper” to learn more. They wanted more information even after the book was finished. Hipp looks forward to her return and creating instructional materials that can be utilized at QISD. 

Hipp leaves on July 10 for her trip to Jerusalem. She has been in conversation with the Texas Holocaust Genocide Antisemitism Advisory Commission, and they have graciously offered to assist Hipp in obtaining whatever education tools and resources she needs to help her prepare for her studies this summer.

She hopes to work with the commission in the future to create stronger instructional opportunities in public school across Texas. 

Submitted by Carley Tucker, Quitman ISD.