September 14, 2022

Salamanca High School teachers honored for human rights education

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source:  NYSUT Communications
yavner award honorees
Caption: Salamanca Teachers Association members Brooke Canale and Brandy Kinney at Tuesday's ceremony with the Board of Regents in Albany. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

Salamanca teachers Brooke Canale and Brandy Kinney were honored this week by the New York State Board of Regents for their outstanding work educating students — and the community — about the Holocaust and human rights.

Canale, a social studies teacher, and Kinney, an English Language Arts teacher, have been working more than a decade together on interdisciplinary lessons and creative projects to spark interest in human rights education.

State Education Commissioner Betty Rosa praised the pair’s work on an “Atrocity Museum” project where students researched human rights issues and worked with the school’s technology department to create 3-D printed artifacts.

“Using real-life accounts and artifacts, these women open a window to the past for students to support learning and civic readiness,” Rosa said. “They are leaders and mentors to their colleagues and have developed lessons that stay with students well beyond their school years, helping them to become adults engaged in the world around them.”

Kinney has spearheaded several enrichment programs that support student learning and civic development. She has taught literature studies on the History of Anti-Semitism and a special class on human rights violations. For six years, she has served as Student Council Co-Advisor and helped create a mentor teacher program in the district.

Canale served as advisor for International Travel and Student Government clubs. In 2019, she collaborated on the human rights violations elective class, which encourages students to explore human rights issues in the modern world, such as the Sudan, Rwanda and Cambodia genocides.

Kinney and Canale, both members of the Salamanca Teachers Association, said they have also tied in local connections. “We’re a public school located on a Native American reservation,” Canale said. “There’s a lot of history of human right violations within our community and the Native American community in general.”

There’s a civics component as well, where students learn about tolerance and being an activist, Kinney said. “And we’re always incorporating writing and reading skills – whether it’s writing historical fiction or vlogs,” Kenney noted. “We’re disguising all of our research and requirements as fun.”

See also: 5 Questions with Megan Wright. In the latest issue of NYSUT United, we talk to 2020 Yavner Award honoree Megan Wright of Alexander United Teachers.

Regents Chancellor Lester Young said human rights education is increasingly timely. “Recent incidents of anti-Semitism and racism exemplify the continuing and critical need for the work these educators have dedicated themselves to,” Young said as he presented the awards. “They understand the power history can have on our future and illustrate for our young people the importance of standing up and speaking out against hatred and injustice.”

The Yavner awards were established by the Board of Regents and funded by the late Regent Emeritus Louis Yavner of New York City, who served on the board from 1975-1981.

The Yavner citizen’s award went to Julie Golding, an educator and curator at the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education in Suffern.

Golding organized the public burial of ashes of Holocaust victims who were murdered at the Chelmno Death Camp in Poland that were given to the museum by a local Holocaust survivor.

In response to the brutal attack at a local Monsey synagogue on Hanukkah 2019, the museum is introducing a new program designed to combat anti-Semitism through education. Golding produced a classroom lesson and accompanying video for a program geared toward middle and high school students.