Grant from Holocaust Center helps Shaler Area educator expand LIGHT program -

Grant from Holocaust Center helps Shaler Area educator expand LIGHT program

Thursday, January 23, 2020 | 12:01 AM

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh is providing a grant allowing a Shaler Area teacher to devote more time to preparing students for “leadership roles in Holocaust, genocide and human rights education, remembrance and advocacy,” according to recipient Nick Haberman.

Haberman will use the funding to pilot a position as Shaler Area High School’s LIGHT – leadership through innovation in genocide and human rights teaching – coordinator. He will spend 40% of his workday on LIGHT coordinator duties and the remaining 60% teaching and handling other related tasks. He will remain a full-time Shaler Area employee, but the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh will subsidize 40% of his salary and benefits to pay for a long-term substitute to teach 40% of his schedule.

“As the LIGHT coordinator, I will manage our new shared humanities makerspace in the high school — the classroom connected to the library — and coordinate LIGHT programming all the while continuing to seek additional grant funding for our district,” he said at a January school board meeting.

“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m just thinking about the spring. Obviously, we’re thinking about sustainable funding from larger organizations.”

The social studies instructor seeks to raise an additional $50,000 in grants prior to the school year’s end to upgrade the school’s LIGHT Center’s furniture, virtual reality technology and computers.

“Nick has been instrumental in really catapulting a program that I think really conceptually started at SAHS and has really expanded, and he has a pretty unique opportunity to really not only help other school districts in the region but to also help expand the leadership through innovation in genocide and human rights teaching program that he has developed at the high school,” Assistant Superintendent Bryan O’Black said.

Board member Suzanna Donahue expressed concern regarding Haberman’s reduced teaching schedule starting in the spring.

“You’re a great teacher, so it’s sort of a loss on our part.”

“I have no intention to quit; don’t worry. It’s my intention is to retire here, just maybe not teach a full schedule,” Haberman said. He said that he could see himself in a position like another Shaler Area educator who divides her time between teaching and serving as activities director. He aims to have his position entirely grant funded.

Through the LIGHT Education Initiative, Shaler Area students have accomplished the following: coordinating a Holocaust education and remembrance event, hosting events in collaboration with the Shaler North Hills Library (SNHL) and Millvale Community Library to spread awareness about the Indigenous population and collaborating with SNHL on a social justice community art project in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In April, the students will travel to Harrisburg to present a bill that they coauthored with state Rep. Sara Innamorato to formally recognize Genocide Awareness Prevention Month.

Students benefit from the programming, Haberman said, in numerous ways. They have applied skills like professional written correspondence, public speaking, leadership, media production and promotion, and collaborating with individuals of different backgrounds. Students have used their LIGHT projects and connections to add to their resumes and gain scholarships. Finally, LIGHT builds empathy and respect.

The Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh aims for the LIGHT initiative to serve as a national model, and, “They want Shaler to be at the center of it,” Haberman said.

“I think your drive and dedication is absolutely second to none,” Board President James Tunstall said. “I think it’s a great program, and we’re very glad to have you.”