ALEXANDER — Megan Wright has touched lives and instilled in future generations the knowledge and learning from one of the worst genocides in human history — the Holocaust.
For her efforts, she has been honored with the Louis E. Yavner Teacher Award by the Board of Regents, which established the Yavner Teacher Award in memory of the late Regent Emeritus Louis E. Yavner of New York City.
The award recognizes teachers who have made outstanding contributions to teaching about the Holocaust and other human rights violations.
Wright said she wasn’t even at school when she learned she won the award, opening up an e-mail on a Monday morning titled ‘Yavner Award’ to see she had won.
“I was pretty shocked. It’s a New York state level award, so it just kind of seems a little surreal,” she said. “I’m pretty honored, obviously, and very humbled to have been chosen.”
Wright’s interest in the Holocaust goes back to when she was a child. Both of her grandfathers fought in World War II, and even though neither talked about it openly, she said just knowing that history of her family made her interested in that era.
“But specifically the Holocaust, I can’t put my finger on it, but I know as a young kid I read the Diaries of Anne Frank and saw some videos on TV,” Wright said.
It further grew, however, when she went to SUNY Brockport as an undergrad and took a Literature of the Holocaust class. During that course she met six survivors, which opened her eyes.
“When I started teaching at Alexander ... it was my second year of teaching, but the department chair said we needed more electives, so I asked if I could create one and base it on the Literature of the Holocaust class I took at Brockport. They said sure,” Wright said. “It kind of started from there. As more students took it and interest kind of increased, the students expressed they wished it was a full-year course. That way we had more time to cover more recent information, which was always the goal too, to connect the Holocaust to current conflicts that have happened since then.”
That’s when she created the Post World War II Literature course, which looks more into genocide studies and connecting the lessons of the Holocaust to today.
Wright said students always hear the large numbers, but they try to focus on the personalized side of the issue to provide context to the tragedy.
“When you hear 6 million, you can’t really grasp that,” she explained. “It sometimes doesn’t resonate with you because it seems too big of a number to seem, I guess, real.”
But when students look at the individual stories, that’s what really opens their eyes that the people who were killed were everyday people.
Wright has taught 11th and 12th grade at Alexander Middle-High School for more than 12 years. She promotes Holocaust education and awareness to her high school students by creating and teaching two English electives titled “World War II/Holocaust Literature” and “Post World War II Literature.” She has also organized multiple Holocaust survivors’ events in her district.