For her work in teaching and inspiring young people about the story of the Holocaust, Anneke Branderhorst has received the 2013 “Courage to Teach” award. Nominated by her principal, Wendell Schaap, at Calvin Christian High School, in Fridley, Minn., at the suggestion of members of the local Jewish community, the award is given by Tolerance Minnesota.
Anneke Branderhorst with Erwin Farkas, a Holocaust survivor she has befriended, at the Yom HaShoah Commemoration.
Branderhorst was then honored at the 2013 Twin Cities Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Commemoration on April 8.
“I was very surprised, to say the least, to have been chosen to receive [this award],” Branderhorst said. “I see this as a very high honor. I am passionate about teaching the story of the Holocaust in hopes of educating students to fight against injustice today. As a Christian, I see it as my calling to live out Micah 6:8 in my teaching.”
Branderhorst, who grew up in Exeter (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church, is in her third year of teaching the Holocaust Literature and Arts course she developed at Calvin Christian High School. This year alone, as part of her course, she has invited five Holocaust survivors into her classroom. She’s also taken her students to the exhibit “When They Came to Take My Father” at the Minneapolis Photo Center and to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Her students also accompanied her to the Yom HaShoah Commemoration.
“Anneke does not merely teach this course as a job requirement,” Schaap said. “She speaks with authenticity and passion—often through tears—about the Holocaust and other injustices toward humanity. Her overarching goal is to tell the story of the Holocaust as a way to teach compassion and responsibility.”
As part of this recognition, Branderhost was given the opportunity to be among more than 100 educators and students who joined members of Tolerance Minnesota and the Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington, D.C. in March.
“Through teaching about the Holocaust, it is my hope that students will begin to see names, faces, stories—to make a personal connection and to feel challenged in their own actions and interactions today,” Branderhorst said.