Summer trip to Poland a chance for BGHS teacher to gain perspective
March 10, 2022
It’s one thing to teach history. It’s quite another to experience it.
That’s why Battle Ground High School World History teacher Amanda Fulfer is so excited to join other educators from around the state on a trip to Poland this July, put together by the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle.
“To be able to go to Poland and visit sites like Auschwitz Birkenau, the Warsaw Ghetto and Schindler’s factory,” Fulfer said, “I keep thinking how amazing that will be next year, when I teach my students about the Holocaust again.”
Fulfer believes education about the Holocaust period is vital to helping students understand historical events that have occurred in the decades since. She also hopes students learn more empathy and respect for others through exposure to such a tragic time in history. “I want them to learn history not just so that we don’t repeat it,” Fulfer said, “I want them to learn history to inform their decisions about how we treat each other.”
Fulfer’s love of world history sprang from her childhood, growing up with a father who insisted on stopping at every museum and cemetery on family vacations. “Even today, we don’t talk about General Custer or the assassination of John F. Kennedy,” she jokes. “That will get you down a road you can’t come back from.”
Despite pushing back against her father’s passion for the past, Fulfer found herself double majoring in world history and East Asian studies in college. That led her to spend a semester abroad in Southeast Asia.
“That trip changed my life,” Fulfer said. “And it changes how I teach that subject material because I’ve been there. I can teach communism in a different way having spent six months traveling throughout some communist countries.”
Despite her history-focused education, Fulfer spent most of her working life in software engineering. She pivoted to education after her oldest child brought up how good she was at helping with homework and asked whether she’d considered becoming a teacher.
When her children were older, Fulfer says she decided to look into becoming a substitute. “When I found out I would have to go back to school to become a teacher, I decided why not get my Master of Secondary Education.”
Fulfer joined Battle Ground High School in 2015 and has quickly become a favorite of many students. She jokes that she now has “close to 150 children.”
Fulfer credits the pandemic-induced shift to virtual professional development for introducing her to Holocaust education. “There were so many professional development options that, normally you’d have to fly to Washington, D.C. or somewhere else to be a part of,” she said. “All of a sudden, they were online and they were free.”
She signed up for a history training program put on by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where she disovered that “there is this whole community of educators who are committed to keeping these stories alive.”
One such group is Educators for Change, a Washington State cohort of history teachers that includes the Holocaust as part of its subject material. Through that group Fulfer learned about the 10-day trip to Poland. Given her earlier life-changing time in Southeast Asia, she jumped at the chance and was even selected to receive a $1,000 scholarship through the Holocaust Center for Humanity to help pay for the trip.
Fulfer sees her willingness to take this trip as yet another lesson for her students. “You don’t just stop learning in high school. It goes on and on.”
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