Meeting the Mandate in Illinois by Teaching the Other Genocides

LISLE, Ill.More than 200 social studies teachers attended the annual Illinois Council for the Social Studies (ICSS) conference September 29 and 30 visiting various exhibitors and attending numerous sessions allowing for personal and professional development for educators reported the Genocide Education Network of Illinois (GENI). This year’s conference entitled Literacy and the American Mind had over forty 60-minute sessions and several 2-hour workshops, as well as an exhibition of over one hundred groups. Present at the conference as an exhibitor and presenter was the Genocide Education Network of Illinois (GENI), a newly created organization in response to the Illinois mandate on teaching genocide that came into affect in August of 2005. Sharing the booth with GENI was the "Xeniteas," the Pontian Society of Chicago, Distributing folders of materials on educating teachers about the Armenian Genocide and Pontian Genocide, the conference also gave members and volunteers of GENI to speak one on one with history teachers and promote their upcoming teachers’ seminar on October 20th, 2006. Co-founder of GENI, Karine Birazian, and members from the Armenian community in Glenview, Silva Bedian and Mourad Meneshian volunteered their time and efforts to help out at the event. George Mavropoulos, Thomas Mantzakides, Savvas Koktzoglou, and Soula Skoupas from Pontian community also helped at the conference along with Ron Levitsky from Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, Illinois. Displaying at the booth the different resources available for teachers, including materials from the Genocide Education Project, CHOICES, and Facing History and Ourselves, Levitsky commented: "conferences like these offer teachers an excellent opportunity, not only to gain background information on the Armenian Genocide, but to access valuable resources and teaching tools. The more help teachers can be given, the more likely they are to teach about the Armenian Genocide, and to teach about it effectively." The afternoon concluded with a 2-hour session called The Other Genocides, where members from GENI and the Pontian community presented on the Armenian and Pontian Genocide. Afterward, Levitsky, 2006 recipient of the Aharonian Award awarded by the Genocide Education Project for excellence in teaching the Armenian Genocide, reviewed various lesson plans teacher can take back to their classrooms. Birazian presented on history of the Armenian genocide and Mantzakides presented for the first time in front of educators the history of the Pontian Genocide. "We were very pleased to meet with teachers who are interested in including genocide education as part of their curriculum," said George Mavropoulos, President of Xeniteas. "This is an important first step in educating students and teachers alike on this sadly overlooked tragedy that took the lives of so many people and for all intents and purposes" he added. Birazian also commented: "This was our first time presenting and exhibiting not only at ICSS but with the Pontian Society of Chicago. We are very grateful with the support we receive from the Armenian community as well as Illinois history teachers. Because the mandate is not funded, our organization has been working to raise money to attend these conferences and hosting seminars." The Genocide Education Network of Illinois is a non-profit initiative founded in 2006 in response to the passage of Public Act 094-0478, mandating the expansion of genocide instruction in the public schools to include the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Ukrainian Famine Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, the Darfur Genocide and others. The Genocide Education Network of Illinois, is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to assisting educators identify genocide education resources and make them accessible, obtain the training needed to effectively teach about genocide, create a forum for educators to network, sharing their, and experiences to develop new materials and methods.


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