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2011 Prudence Crandall Memorial Award
Winner: Stuart Abrams
Stuart (Stu) Abrams, a social studies teacher at Avon High School since the mid-1990s, has taught health, United States history, world history, and sociology courses. But throughout his career, Stu has emerged as an outstanding educator in the area of humanities and genocide education.
The various humanities electives Stu offers share a common goal of ensuring that his students become more knowledgeable about the world in which they live and sensitive to human rights and social justice issues. Aware that these themes are not necessarily prevalent in other classes offered at Avon High School, Stu sought to expose his students to a broader perspective of timely topics. Moreover, through their discussions, debates, and reflections, Stu's students are able to develop a new way of thinking they can apply to many of their other classes. An integral part of the humanities elective is the Senior Mastery Project that consists of a written component, a presentation, and a static exhibit that must focus on one of the four essential questions of the course: What makes us human? How did we get here, and where are we going? Is the human condition changing? What is truth? Beauty? Morality? In addition, over the past three years, Stu and his colleague, Lou Pellegrino, have worked on revising the humanities curriculum in an effort to transform it into a study of human rights.
Stu also is also a nationally recognized scholar on genocide and Holocaust education. He was the recipient of an award from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and was selected by the museum to join a national committee of secondary teachers and college professors working on Holocaust education projects. To that end, seven years ago, Stu created a course at Avon High School entitled "Genocide and Human Behavior" that studies the "propensity of human beings to attempt to dominate one another through genocide" and ultimately aims to teach students that "learning about past destructive activities can influence us to recognize and hopefully prevent this behavior from occurring in the future." Students are required to complete extensive reading, maintain reflective journals, and prepare and participate in class discussions.
Stu continues his advocacy efforts outside of the classroom as the advisor to Avon High's chapter of Amnesty International, an organization dedicated to defending and fighting for human rights worldwide. His chapter was responsible for bringing nationally recognized speakers into the school such as Robert Meeropol, the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Carl Wilkens, the last American to stay in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. The chapter also held numerous fundraising events that resulted in donations to the Save Darfur Coalition.
In nominating Stu for a human and civil rights award, Lou Pellegrino explained that 'Stu Abrams teaches by example what it means to be a good person. He does this as a classroom teacher, as an advisor to student organizations, and in his informal, day-to-day interactions with students and colleagues. He is a scholar, an activist, a role model, and one of the most decent people I know."