Thursday, June 4, 2015

Educator of the Year: Ms. Caitlin Meehan-Draper

A graduate from Eckerd College, Caitlin joined Teach for America in 2010. During this time she taught 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at Greensboro High School in Alabama. In her first year teaching Ms. Meehan-Draper decided to teach Night by Elie Wiesel. This lesson was inspired by her time at Eckerd College, where Wiesel taught. Each year Wiesel gave a speech to the Freshman class. This initial interaction with Wiesel and his beliefs about our moral compass, sparked an everlasting relationship between Night and Ms. Meehan-Draper's students.

The first time Caitlin taught the book to her class it was a challenge for both her and her students. However, each time Ms. Meehan-Draper taught the book it got better and better. Her students were soon able to analyze contemporary issues through the themes and lessons of Night.  Students wrote papers about the innocence or guilt of German citizens, the impact of silence on violence, along with a multitude of other concepts. In the 2011-2012 school year Ms. Meehan-Draper fundraised nearly $10,000 to take a group of students to hear Wiesel's address the Eckerd freshman class. 

After two years at Greensboro High School, Ms. Meehan-Draper joined our family at Samuel J. Green Charter School. Since joining the Green family, Ms. Meehan-Draper has taught Night every year. 

Caitlin's work in the classroom and the impact of her lessons did not go unnoticed. Ms. Meehan-Draper was nominated by Green Charter School Director Ava Lee and Middle School Principal Andrew Sullivan for the Holocaust Educator of the Year Award. Shortly following her nomination, the Jewish Community Center interviewed Ms. Meehan-Draper. During the interview Ms. Meehan-Draper was able to share letters from past students who wrote about how holocaust studies have changed their lives. Caitlin also showed the JCC an article she wrote for Southern Jewish Life about her trip to Eckerd to hear Wiesel speak. 

On April 12th the JCC held the Yom HaShoa ceremony which remembers the victims of the Holocaust and their families. It was during this ceremony that Ms. Meehan-Draper was honored for her incredible work. Other events included prayers, stories from Holocaust survivors and liberators, and a reading from Alex Zapruder. 

Caitlin said, "it was a beautiful night because my parents, co workers, school leaders, and students came to support me. This award validated a lof the work I have done to teach the transformative lessons of the Holocaust. I look forward to many more years of teaching Holocaust units and I hope to get better and better at it."

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