A compassion for history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2002

Laura Pritchard teaches more than grammar, vocabulary and literature in her English class.

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy teacher believes knowing an era’s history is critical to understanding literature produced during that time period.

Consequently, Pritchard, 33, always talks about major historic events, such as the Holocaust, in her English classes.

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Although she isn’t Jewish, Pritchard has been interested in that period of history since childhood when she read, &uot;The Diary of Anne Frank.&uot; That interest was further spurred by a family friend who escaped from Nazi Germany.

Pritchard, 33, is one of 25 teachers nationwide selected to participate in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Mandel Teacher Fellowship.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization’s program is designed to develop a corps of skilled secondary school teachers to serve as Holocaust education leaders in their communities.

The Holocaust can teach students a great deal about people and themselves, she said.

&uot;This is a way of emphasizing how important it is that students understand that hate and intolerance are not acceptable,&uot; Pritchard said. &uot;People need to know that they have to have the moral courage to stand up for what they believe in.

&uot;…It helps make them aware that real people suffered. They were sons, grandfathers, grandmothers, poor people, rich people, and people who didn’t even consider themselves Jewish,&uot;

Pritchard decided last year to apply for the Mandel Fellowship last year after participating in an educational tour of Israel and Poland. In the latter, Pritchard had the opportunity to visit several death camps used during World War II.

&uot;It was a very moving experience,&uot; she said.

As part of the fellowship, Pritchard is working with the Holocaust Mission and the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater to produce a curriculum that will enable educators to teach about the Holocaust in three to five days.

Name? Laura A. Pritchard

Age? 33

Hometown? Suffolk

Family? Parents – Brian and Esther Pritchard, fiance – Dr. Benjamin Dobrin, 5 cats (Steffi, Lord Byron, Nik, Liam and Carmen), 2 Siberian Huskies (Tristan and Wimsey), 2 mixed breed dogs (Daisy and Dodger) and 1 Rhodesian Ridgeback (Princess Leia)

Education? University of Tennessee, Knoxville (M.A. English, M.S. Education), Christopher Newport University (B.A.), University of Wales, Cardiff College, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy

Career\Occupation? English teacher at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy

Volunteer activities? Suffolk Jaycees (first female member), involved in community theatre

Favorite thing about life in Suffolk? My favorite thing about Suffolk is the beautiful countryside.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I love reading and learning, and I wanted to share that with others.

Favorite thing about your job? I love researching and learning about different topics to teach to my classes.

Least favorite thing about your job? My least favorite thing is entering grades into computer.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? I am very proud of being awarded the Pollie Morrison Award for Holocaust and Tolerance Education (by the Holocaust Commission and the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in 2001) and being selected to be a Mandel Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (for 2002-2003).

Who or what motivates and inspires you? I am very intrinsically motivated, and my family also motivates me. In Holocaust Education, I am very motivated by the survivors.

Favorite way to spend your free time? I love to spend my free time with Ben, relaxing at the beach, reading, playing with my pets, and cooking.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? The only limits you have in life are the ones that you impose on yourself.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Ingredients for a good life are family, friends, faith, pets, reading and learning, and volunteering in your community.

We all have our &uot;15 minutes of fame&uot; in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? 1. &uot;The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality&uot; (Dante). It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act. 2. Spay or neuter and vaccinate your pets!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Why? I would change my predilection towards procrastination, because when I procrastinate I tend to get stressed out.