Riverview Middle School teacher Sherry Browning had a rare experience over the summer.
Browning, a nearly 25-year teaching veteran, was awarded first place for a lesson submitted during this year's Summer Institute on Teaching the Holocaust at the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education.
"I heard about the Holocaust Summer Academy at the Weinberg Center from a former colleague of mine," Browning said. "Then, last winter, I received an email inviting me to attend the program. I researched it and everything that I came across was extremely positive."
Browning said that the subject touches her both personally and professionally.
"My grandfather was in the infantry on the European front during World War II. He instilled in me a deep respect for Holocaust victims and survivors. Studying this topic has always been a goal of mine," she said. "Anne Frank (who is studied as part of Brown's curriculum) is an extremely powerful piece of literature. It definitely sparked more interest on my part."
A five-time STAR teacher, as well as 1999 Dawson County High School Teacher of the Year and 2000 System Teacher of the Year, Browning originally wrote the award-winning unit for her gifted classes at Riverview Middle.
"I want today's students to know the atrocities, horrors and hope that the Holocaust brought into the world," she said. "I want my students to never forget what the victims and survivors had to endure."
Browning's lesson highlighted the history of anti-Semitism and covered the history of the Holocaust, focusing on survivors and the extreme conditions that they suffered.
"I also covered Jewish Resistance, but the ultimate tie I want to make is that happenings in today's world mirror the injustice and unexplainable hatred of the Holocaust," she said. "I've made a tie to bullying and the dangers of it. It is my goal to have Riverview become a No Place for Hate school where all people come together in respect for everyone."
Browning said she was utterly shocked when she heard that she had won, but, in the end, she just wants to make sure this part of history is never forgotten.
"My reaction was one of complete shock and overwhelming joy. I remember receiving the email about three weeks ago and thinking that it must have been sent to me in error," she said. "When I got over that, all I could think about was that my students are the last generation to even have a remote chance to hear a survivor speak.
"The youngest survivor that I met was 88 years old. My heart is fully and completely humbled to be able to expose my students to this part of history."