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Yonkers Teacher Wins Prestigious Award

Yonkers teacher Mitchell Polay receives an award for teaching students about the Holocaust.
Yonkers teacher Mitchell Polay receives an award for teaching students about the Holocaust. Photo Credit: New York Department of Education

YONKERS, N.Y. -- A Yonkers Public School teacher was recently recognized for his work for educating students and others about the Holocaust and other violations of human rights by the New York State Board of Regents.

Mitchell Polay, a sixth-grade teacher at Paideia School 15,  was honored with the Louis E. Yavner Teacher Award which recognizes teachers who make outstanding contributions to teaching about the Holocaust and other human rights violations.

“Mr. Polay understands the power that history can have on our future and has helped his students grasp this critical concept too,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said. “His pedagogy about the Holocaust makes students aware of what those in power did to spread the fear and anger that resulted in horrific, unthinkable acts against innocent people. These lessons are about more than unspeakable crimes—they also illustrate for our children the importance of standing up and speaking out against injustice and intolerance.”

Polay has dedicated much of his professional life to Holocaust studies. He has traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Australia to explore the questions of why and how genocide in general and the Holocaust happened.

He also developed a credit-bearing course for teachers called “History of the Holocaust and the Lessons We Can Learn From It,” and has been teaching the course to colleagues for the past three years. He is the 30th teacher to receive the Yavner Award.

In addition to the Yavner Award, Polay has also received the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Fellowship Award and the Susan J. Goldberg Memorial Teachers Award for his dedication to human rights education.

He was also chosen by the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program to study the Holocaust in Germany and Poland and to travel to Israel to promote genocide prevention.

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