Friday, September 15th the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights held their 14th annual Change Your World Celebration raising about $75,000 for the center. At this event Weiser High School teacher Michelle Chavez was awarded and named the Idaho Human Rights Educator of the Year. The award is given to an educator who shows passion for teaching youth about human rights.
Chavez has been an educator for the last twenty-three years at Weiser High School and has been teaching a Holocaust class she created for the last 14 of those years. Chavez is very passionate about the subject of human rights and has visited Europe and takes her students on a trip to the Idaho Anne Frank Memorial yearly. Chavez believes it is important to teach about human rights and subjects such as the Holocaust, not only so that history doesn't repeat itself, but she says, “We also have to be socially aware of all the human right violations that take place in our society today. We need to be an upstander and say this isn't going to happen in our society. Idaho has about twelve active hate groups and that is very scary. It is of course important that students learn about the past, but it is also important that they learn about how it affects them in our society today.”
Chavez shared that receiving this award was, “Such an honor. Probably one of the greatest honors of my life. This is my passion. It is the Holocaust class that I created and teach, to be honored for my work is one of the biggest honors I have ever received in my life.” Her passion stems from reading the survivors memoirs and hearing their words. Chavez was friends with Holocaust survivor Rose Beal. Beal stressed to her the importance that the stories needed to be told so what happened doesn't happen again. “She passed away a few years ago, but she always stressed the importance. She would always say never again is now. We need to make sure that something like the Holocaust never happens again… We need to be upstanders and say this did happen, but we won't let it happen again.”
Chavez again stated that it was an honor and wanted to thank those who have supported her passion, “I want to thank Dan Prinzing from the Wassmuth Center. He has been such a mentor to me with his human rights activism. I really want to say thank you to the school district. They have really supported me teaching the class and my museum exhibit. I would like to thank the Weiser Education Foundation. They have always supported me especially with funding when I go to Washington DC. They have been fantastic.”
Photo Credit : Nicole Neill