Tara Holmin is a Learning Disabilities Special Education Teacher in Saint Paul, MN. In order to help her high school students mainstream into “regular” classes, she also co-teaches English 11 in the general education setting. The majority of her special needs students read and write between two-to four-years below grade level and one of her goals is to show them that writing can be a therapeutic and positive outlet for anxiety and frustration.
Just as it was for Anne Frank.
To introduce her students to Anne’s life and legacy, Tara designed a fellowship to research the young woman, as well as author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, in The Netherlands, Germany and Poland. The itinerary included the Anne Frank House (where Tara took the above photo) and National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam; The Holocaust Memorial, Reichstag and Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin; and Auschwitz in Krakow, Poland. The driving motivation throughout her learning was to increase personal knowledge on the Holocaust and lead students in the recording of their own stories on the school district’s podcast.
“I am passionate about having my students connect to others in history who have gone through hard times and used writing to help them cope,” said Tara. “Previously, my students considered writing a chore, but now it’s not just a task assigned in school, but a tool that can be used to express themselves and to get their story out of personal struggles and triumphs.”
Tara’s students accomplished this by first writing, then voicing, their stories using iPads and Anne’s example.
“While reading The Diary of Anne Frank in class, my students journaled every other day – improving their writing and self-expression skills,” said Tara. “By the end of the unit, they created podcasts on a snippet of their lives based on the journals they wrote. After interviewing people for their particular stories, they then created, edited, narrated and produced their stories, even adding music and side effects using their iPads.”
Anne Frank died of typhoid seventy-four years ago today in the Bergen-Belsen death camp, but her legacy continues in the lives and learning of students around the world, including Tara’s. They are the embodiment of Anne’s quote:
“The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
Tara (pictured at right on the Amsterdam leg of her fellowship) teaches Fusion Reading to students who have a learning disorder in the area of reading and writing. She has taught this course for five years and helped create the curriculum for the 3rd year of the program that did not exist previously.