JFCS Holocaust Center Preisler Shorenstein Institute for Holocaust Education
The Educator Leadership Council’s mission is to unify a group of educators from across the state of California to expand the impact of educational programming in the fields of Holocaust and genocide studies in order to cultivate empathy and moral courage in the next generation of student leaders.
The Educator Leadership Council advises on the curriculum and professional development of the JFCS Holocaust Center and the California Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education. The Council is comprised of select California teachers with instructional expertise in Holocaust education, genocide studies, antisemitism, racism, and human rights.
Tracy Cooper Bryant
Canyon Crest Academy, San Diego County
Tracy Cooper Bryant has had nearly three decades of experience in the classroom incorporating anti-bias curriculum into her lessons, promoting good mental health, and teaching with an antiracist lens. She is proud of her 12 years of No Place For Hate work, which has incorporated Holocaust survivors, the Butterfly Project, the Rice Experience, and the Innocence Project. She has taken students to educational sites such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA, and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. She is currently an AP government and AP psychology teacher and serves on the Diversity Equity and Inclusion team at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego and is the District Coordinator for Social Studies at San Dieguito Union High School District. Tracy continues to learn to be the best educational leader and student advocate possible.
Piner High School, Sonoma County
Donna Fernandez is Pomo from Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake Oaks, CA. She is a National Board Certified Teacher of Mathematics for Adolescents and Young Adults, holds a Master of Education degree in Advanced Teaching, and earned a BA in Mathematics and a BA in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. Currently, Donna is an instructor of Mathematics at Piner High School in Santa Rosa. She is a Co-Director of the Alliance of Indigenous Math Circles which creates mathematical opportunities for Indigenous students and to build community among math teachers of Indigenous students while respecting Indigenous culture. Donna loves promoting STEM activities for indigenous youth.
Griffith STEAM Magnet Middle School, Los Angeles County
Mila Lopez has been an educator since 1998. She is passionate about bringing English Language Arts and theatre to Holocaust education, requiring her students to perform The Diary of Anne Frank, visit the Holocaust Museum LA, hear from a Holocaust survivor, and analyze primary sources each year. Mila feels that it is her calling to educate students to bring awareness to the atrocities committed during the Holocaust and stop it from being repeated, giving the students the resources they need to develop a deeper understanding and respect for all of humanity.
Orinda Intermediate School, Contra Costa County
For the past 30 years, Suzy Kisch has taught mostly 7th grade Core, a blend of both History and Language Arts, and has always enjoyed seeing her students grow and learn in an academic and social setting. She is inspired by her students as she watches them discover joy in learning, become more adept at problem-solving and being resourceful, and connect past events with their world today. Suzy also acknowledges the importance of collaborating with others involved in education as a means to contributing to this process. Her dedication to teaching is perfectly summarized by Ellen Browning Scripps: “The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.” Suzy hopes every educator can live and teach with this wisdom in mind.
Mill Valley Middle School, Marin County
Kayla Kissling is an educator in Marin County, CA. She currently teaches 8th-grade history at Mill Valley Middle School and also works as a tutor at Bridge the Gap College Prep. Educating for social justice is a main priority of her educational philosophy. She strives to teach the truth about history and open students’ eyes to multiple perspectives, particularly those that have often been silenced. She is proud to join the Holocaust Center’s Educator Leadership Council for a second year and continue to advocate for culturally responsive teaching and learning.
Mendocino College, Mendocino County
Phillip Lenberg serves as Music Director of the Ukiah Symphony Orchestra and Professor of Music at Mendocino College. Previously, he was the Assistant Conductor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, and part-time instructor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. Phillip has premiered many new works from emerging composers, and has worked with a variety of internationally acclaimed composers. His own music has been performed by ensembles including Da Capo Chamber Ensemble, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and the California Orchestra Directors Association. Before receiving both his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Phillip pursued his Bachelor’s degree at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music and SUNY Stony Brook where he studied classical guitar.
St. Francis High School
Jim McGarry has been a Holocaust educator since 1992, following his first training with the Holocaust Center of Northern California and Facing History and Ourselves. Jim has been fortunate to attend professional development at the USHMM, Yad Vashem, the USC Shoah Foundation, and POLIN (Museum of the History of Polish Jews) in Warsaw. He has brought a series of survivor speakers to speak in schools each year since 1995—most recently called “Courage and Spirit.” It is through this work Jim became inspired and founded The Helen and Joe Farkas Center for the Study of the Holocaust in Catholic Schools at Mercy High School, San Francisco in 2007. Through his work with the Farkas Center, in 2012, Jim went on the JFCS Holocaust Center trip with 24 college and high school students to Germany, Poland, and Israel, accompanying Auschwitz survivor Helen Farkas, then 92.
The Athenian School, Contra Costa County
Born and raised in northern California, Stephanie McGraw has been teaching high school students at The Athenian School since 2001. Stephanie received her BA in English from UC Berkeley and her MA in History from Sonoma State University. Passionate about developing a project-based, interdisciplinary curriculum, Stephanie teaches a wide range of courses, such as U.S. History, Women’s Literature, and Understanding Elections. Her most popular course, The Holocaust, engages students in an in-depth, semester-long study of history surrounding the Holocaust. Besides focusing on the ramifications of stereotyping, prejudice and racism in society, the course helps students understand that it’s the responsibility of citizens in a democracy to learn to identify the danger signals of governmental abuses of power and to know when (and how) to react. Stephanie has taught at the JFCS Holocaust Center’s Day of Learning and was a Fellow in the Global Holocaust Educators’ Pilot Program. Additionally, her work was recognized by the Holocaust Center in 2019 when she was named as a recipient of the Morris Weiss Award for Outstanding Educators.
Westmark School, Los Angeles County
Katie O’Connor has been teaching at Westmark School in Southern California since 2014. She currently teaches 11th grade U.S. History and 10th grade World History, and has experience teaching 10th grade English. Previously, Katie taught reading at Los Angeles Job Corps and was a private tutor. Katie has a BA in theater from Brown University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California. She has been a member of the Facing History Leadership Team and is dedicated to using pedagogy that reaches all students in her classroom.
Milken Community School, Los Angeles County
Wendy Ordower has been the director of Service Learning at Milken Community School for 18 years. Currently, she orchestrates programming for students in grades 6 – 12. In her role, she strives to integrate service into the curriculum, aligning authentic service experiences with student interests. She is passionate about Holocaust and genocide education and has partnered with organizations like the Holocaust Museum of Los Angeles, the AJC and Italian Consulate for student programming surrounding International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Yom HaShoah commemoration.
Palo Alto Senior High School, Santa Clara County
DJ Shelton teaches World History and Psychology at Palo Alto High School and middle school at Temple Beth Am. With 7 years of classroom teaching under his belt, DJ has dedicated himself to revamping the Holocaust unit based around Facing History resources and developing a multi-tier writing program to ensure that all students are introduced to historical writing and beginner research. DJ is passionate about making sure students are prepared to discuss and write about hard topics.
Los Angeles Centered for Enriched Studies (LACES), Los Angeles County
Nicole Solig has been an educator in the Los Angeles Unified School District since 2008. She currently teaches in the Social Studies Department at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) this fall. Prior to LACES, Nicole worked at the Los Angeles School of Global Studies (LASGS) in downtown LA for 13 years, serving as lead teacher for 8 years, a member of the instructional leadership team, a member of the advisory board, and the College and Career Day chair. Nicole has also been a member of the Facing History and Ourselves Leadership Team for several years, mentor to aspiring teacher candidates, and the former co-site director of the Dominguez Hills International Studies Project. She has facilitated numerous professional development opportunities for teachers around equity in the classroom and teaching historical content, and she is very passionate about helping to build school communities that foster positive learning environments, where students feel supported, their needs are met, and where students from a variety of backgrounds can thrive.
Dinuba High School, Tulare County
Tracy Teran has been in the field of education since 2008. She began her career as a lecturer of art, teaching courses in art theory, art appreciation and art history as a faculty member for Clovis Community College and California State University, Fresno. Tracy recently transitioned to the K – 12 level to apply her higher education knowledge to impact students at the high school level. She is currently working at the secondary level as a World History teacher and National History Day Club advisor at Dinuba High School in Tulare County. Her goal as an educator is to provide engaging, relevant and rigorous lessons to meet the needs of all students. Tracy holds a B.A. in History/Art History from UCLA, an M.A. in Art, Emphasis Art History from California State University, Long Beach and a Teaching Credential from California State University, Fresno.
Sheldon High School, EGUSD, Sacramento County
Jess Vaughn has been teaching English and English Language Development since 2013. The focus of her practice is helping students develop empathy for others as well as confidence in their own voice through reading and discussing diverse, relatable texts. Through her time as an educator, Jess has served as a teacher leader on a variety of professional learning teams, English Learner Coordinator, a softball coach, and has partnered with JFCS for 6 years to bring Holocaust survivor testimony to her classroom. Jess was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2019 for the San Lorenzo Unified School District.
Melissa Marie Vineyard
Helios School, Santa Clara County
Melissa Marie Vineyard is currently teaching at Helios School. She has experience teaching at the middle school and university levels, and cares deeply about history as a discipline and passionately embraces the philosophy of the Stanford History Education Group. Melissa was born in Alaska and raised in Humboldt County, where she received her BA in Humanities through Humboldt State University. She spent a year living in Northern Israel on Kibbutz Dafna as a volunteer, exposing her to the incredibly rich history of the land and inspiring her to study history. Melissa has completed two graduate degrees in medieval history; one from St. Andrews University, Scotland and one from UCLA. She earned her Single Subject Social Studies Teaching Credential at Sonoma State University.
For more information about the Educator Leadership Council contact [email protected].
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