May 17, 2016

NYSUT congratulates Hudson Falls teacher, Hastings-on-Hudson Holocaust survivor for Yavner awards

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Caption: File photo of Matt Rozell by Andrew Watson.

Hudson Falls High School Teacher Matt Rozell, who has been featured in NYSUT stories and a video, was honored today by the New York State Board of Regents for his extraordinary work educating students about the Holocaust and human rights, receiving the 2015 Louis E. Yavner Teaching Award.

Hastings-on-Hudson Holocaust survivor Ed Lessing, who shares his story with students, educators and the community, received the Yavner Citizens Award.

Both men spoke passionately about the need for future generations to hear the stories of survivors and rescuers. Lessing, who was a hidden child in the Netherlands during World War II, told the Regents that when he speaks in schools, he never fails to tell students, "Always be a helper. Never a hater."

Rozell said his work started out as a homework assignment asking students to interview parents and grandparents about World War II. That assignment grew into a compelling "Living History" project and extensive website, where family members, survivors and the soldiers who rescued them have made connections. Rozell's work, which was featured by ABC television, has also spearheaded numerous reunions in three countries between survivors and the soldiers who rescued them.

Rozelle told the Regents it's crucial for young people to hear the "miracles" of the survival stories and learn the lessons of the Holocaust. "Students have been so incredibly moved ... they're the new witnesses," Rozell told the Regents. Rozell was joined at the Regents Board meeting by his wife Laura, a special education teacher and South Glens Falls Teachers Association member.