October 30, 2020

Winners of 2020 HREC Educator Award for Holodomor lesson plans are announced


TORONTO – HREC Education, of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, announced that its national panel of education adjudicators has selected the winners of this year’s HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development. Presented annually to recognize outstanding educators in the field of Holodomor teaching, the award fosters excellence in the development of innovative, creative and interactive lessons for grades K-12 that develop students’ critical thinking skills while addressing the topic of the genocide in Ukraine in the early 1930s.

Susan Kenny, winner of this year’s HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development.

This year, the judges awarded educators Susan Kenney (Washington Township, N.J.) and Natalia Onyschuk (Edmonton, Alberta) the HREC Educator Award for their unique lesson plans on the topic of the Holodomor at the senior and primary grade levels, respectively. Winning lesson plans are posted to the HREC Education website and are made available for download by interested teachers. In addition, honorable mentions were bestowed upon educators Kelly Hiebert (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Anna Babka (Montreal) and Marion Mutala (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). Applications were submitted from across Canada and the United States.

Natalia Onyshcuk, winner of this year’s HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development.

Dr. Kenney has taught social studies and language arts since 2008 at Immaculate Heart Academy (IHA), an all-girls college preparatory private Roman Catholic high school located in Washington Township, N.J. She also taught at William Paterson University for seven years in both the English and Women’s Studies departments. Dr. Kenney received her Doctor of Letters degree from Drew University in interdisciplinary humanities. She volunteers for First Friends, an immigrants’ rights advocacy group that visits undocumented immigrants being held in detention. As a member of the First Friends team, she is a seasoned guest speaker at colleges, universities and faith-based groups. She has been involved in social justice projects with students over the years, including Students Against Modern-day Slavery (SAMS), and she chairs the Academic Integrity Committee at IHA. Dr. Kenney was awarded an Alfred Lerner Fellowship from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous earlier this year.

Dr. Kenney’s winning lesson plan for Grades 11 and 12, titled “Imperial Famines: America’s Response to the Holodomor,” takes a unique look at how first-hand accounts from survivors raise profound questions about the U.S. response to the Holodomor and invites students to envision alternative responses. The purpose of the lesson is for students to develop a heightened sense of global responsibility. Students are exposed to a variety of contextualizing historical resources and survivor accounts in this lesson.

By analyzing and evaluating primary and secondary sources, and examining multiple perspectives using empathy, a critical thinking skill, students evaluate historically difficult questions with context and depth, and assess the responsibility of the world community to respond to injustice, even when it might not directly affect one’s own country. Students apply not only critical and creative thinking but also emotional intelligence to a variety of activities, from individual writing, creating videos, responding to other students’ videos, posting to class discussion boards, exploring multiple perspectives by taking different viewpoints, and class discussions that develop insight and fair-mindedness. Her lesson plan is even adapted for distance learning in response to the restrictions the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated for online teaching. It contains an excellent resource list and may easily be used in history, social justice, language arts, sociology, anthropology, religion and genocide studies courses.

Natalia Onyschuk, a former elementary school music teacher, teaches Grade 4 at St. Matthew School of the Edmonton Catholic School District. She is a former vice-president of the choral group Dnipro Ensemble of Edmonton, is one of three performers in the Zemlia Vocal Trio and sings with Cappella Kyrie in Edmonton. Ms. Onyschuk’s lesson, titled “Teaching the Holodomor through Music – The Song ‘Dry Tears,’ ” teaches students about the Holodomor by looking at this historical event through the eyes of children.

Ms. Onyschuk authored an emotionally powerful and resonant song that teaches content about the Holodomor, with a piano arrangement by James French, which is used as the basis for teaching a series of three unique lessons: one in language arts, one in music and one in visual art. Her lesson plan can be incorporated into language arts, music and visual art curriculums, and may also be adapted to the social studies curriculum. St. Matthew Ukrainian Bilingual School Choir, under the artistic direction of Ms. Onyschuk, sang the song “Dry Tears” in a recorded video that can be viewed during the lesson. The choir has performed this song and others Ms. Onyschuk has written in front of the Edmonton Legislature during past Holodomor Memorial Day commemorations.

“This year, we were pleased to see there was a strong submission for elementary grades, which will hopefully inspire and encourage more educators of lower grades to submit in the near future,” stated Valentina Kuryliw, HREC director of education, who created the award.

Applications for the 2021 HREC Educator Award may be downloaded from the HREC Education website at education.holodomor.ca. The deadline for 2021 applications is October 1, 2021.

The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium is a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta.