BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WJW) – Longtime educators Carrie Shapiro and Katie Vitek both teach English language arts at Beachwood Middle School.
But the veteran teachers will soon be reversing their roles by becoming students once again, chosen by their principal to continue their education abroad and study intricate details about the Holocaust.
“It’s not every day that someone says you have the opportunity to go on a life-changing experience. And it’s not like I had any travel plans so it was so exciting to hear,” Shapiro said.
The teachers will be the first in the Cleveland area to travel to Poland, thanks to the organization ‘Classrooms without Borders,’ with the help of the Jewish Education Center, also in Cleveland.
Accompanied by Holocaust survivors, Kate and Carrie will focus on the history of the Holocaust by visiting the Treblinka Memorial site, a former concentration camp located one hour outside of Warsaw.
The grounds include hundreds of stones displaying the names of cities from which Jews were transported from to be killed.
“One of the things you can do there at the museum site is you can visit 17,000 stones that are commemorating victims of the Holocaust,” Kate said.
Visitors pay tribute to those murdered by laying small rocks of their own on the memorial stones.
The teachers are now inviting members of the Beachwood community to join in the experience.
“To let people share stones that we’re going to bring with us on the trip and place for them, in their name,” Kate said.
While the stone will remain, powerful stories of death and survival will return with them; increasing students’ understanding and awareness about the Holocaust.
“We only have so many survivors left, so how can we carry out the story in future years so that nothing like this ever happen again,” Carrie said.
The teachers will be in Poland from June 18 through 26.
Community members are invited to drop off memorial stones at Beachwood Middle School through June 2.