Peace Through Teacher Dialogue 2011

by Margret Ellwanger and Kamie Robinson

Day Three – The Open Border to Poland

Day Three – The Open Border to Poland

Day Three – Welcome in Polish, German, and English

Day Three – Welcome in Polish, German, and English

Day Three – The Hotel Zur Alten Oder

Day Three – The Hotel Zur Alten Oder

Day Four – Painting Project at ZAK

Day Four – Painting Project at ZAK

Day Four – Presentation of Programs at ZAK

Day Four – Presentation of Programs at ZAK

Day Four – An article on display at ZAK about PTTD 2010 written after returning from Israel by German students attending Witthoeft Oberschule.

Day Four – An article on display at ZAK about PTTD 2010 written after returning from Israel by German students attending Witthoeft Oberschule.

Day Four – Witthoeft Oberschule, the School with Courage, School without Racism

Day Four – Witthoeft Oberschule, the School with Courage, School without Racism

Day Four – Principal Undine Schell Schmidt presenting an overview of Witthoeft Oberschule’s curriculum.

Day Four – Principal Undine Schell Schmidt presenting an overview of Witthoeft Oberschule’s curriculum.

The Peace Through Teacher Dialogue 2011 Delegation

The Peace Through Teacher Dialogue 2011 Delegation

WILDAU, Germany — The 2011 Peace Through Teacher Dialogue (PTTD) held October 28-November 4 marked a dynamic third annual working visit between German and Israeli educators, and the overall fourth PTTD since its inception in 2007 with Canyon Heights School in Kaysville, Utah.

This year’s PTTD scope and impact was significantly elevated as a result of widening the Israeli Na’amat delegation from one to six schools. Both the Jewish and Arab sectors selected representatives from three schools to travel for one week to Germany for the purpose of studying specific components of the German vocational education system (Berufsschule) and to build upon the professional partnership that had been established between the Na’amat Nazareth Technical High School and the Zeuthener Akademie (ZAK) in Brandenburg.

The Jewish schools were represented by principals and administrators from Haifa (Vicki Furst, director), Rishon Letzion (Erella Shaul, director; Meir Merdler, Gali Cohen), and Petach Tikvah (Iris Weinstein, director; Aliza Gluska). The Arab schools were represented by principals and administrators from Shefar'am (Katy Bishara, director), Tamra (Nadia Shuly, director; Najat Azzam, Riyan Sharif) and Nazareth (Nadera Tannous,director; Lilian Hakim, Khalil Kharman, Najat Nassar). Overall, Aida Levin, the director of the entire Israel Na’amat High School Education Network led the delegation.

Discussions held throughout the year amongst the Israeli delegation members, ZAK leadership, and forPEACE directors had yielded as program objective for the 2011 dialogue the desire to provide an educational and cultural experience for preparing students to become skilled workers (Facharbeiter) in hotels, restaurants and the tourism industry. These topics were especially relevant for the schools from Shefar’am and Nazareth, towns that are adapting to growing tourism and local demand for well-trained workers in the hospitality industry.  Additionally, emphasis was placed on vocational and social training programs for youth with learning disabilities, and those coming from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

After a warm welcome from the city of Wildau and weekend activities to acquaint the delegation with history of their host’s environment, a bus transported the Israeli delegation on Day 3 to Frankfurt and Oder to visit the “open border to Poland.” The town’s academic tour guide, Frau Dr. Kristina Setzkorn, pointed out that many older Germans and Poles were deeply impacted by the not-too-distant developments that lifted the iron curtain between Germany and former East Block nations; such developments enabled peaceful trade and educational cooperation for the next generation.

Later in the day, the delegation received information from Polish EU educational commissioner, Ms. Zomka, about German-Polish cooperation in their “dual education system,” which combines academic school days with practical workdays and allowing students to learn and apply their knowledge or skill in real world situations as they intern with businesses that don’t judge or hire based on borders or nationality. The program included a visit to hotel “Zur Alten Oder” where the owner mentors student interns enrolled in a three-year hotel management program and provides a nurturing family environment where they can feel safe, grow, learn, and prepare for future employment opportunities.

Following the hotel visit was a short stop at a local carpentry shop, Uwe Netzker, to highlight a business that offered training to young men en route to skilled carpentry certifications (Meister Zertifikat).

Day four began with a tour of the ZAK facilities. At ZAK the delegation observed a group of students who were in action refurbishing and painting containers and caravans to be used as mobile stores. The students involved in the project were working toward attaining a certificate to enter trades in the paint industry.

After observing their work, the delegation transferred to Witthoeft Oberschule, a high school that earned the title “School with Courage, School without Racism”. Principal Undine Schell Schmidt presented an overview of the school’s curriculum, gave a walk-through of the facilities and provided a lunch cooked by the in-house culinary students. During lunch the delegation sat at tables and conversed with students; after lunch the group split up to visit different subjects for a class period. Upon reconvening, an administrator from each of the six Na’amat Schools gave a short presentation about their respective school in Israel and the programs their school offered. Dr. Uwe Malich, the mayor of Wildau, spoke to the delegation. He underscored the importance of the partnership between ZAK and the Na’amat Schools.

On day five, the group from Israel was the guest of Oberstufenzentrum KW, also known as a “Berufsschule” in German. The group received an overview of Oberstufenzentrum KW’s three-year curriculum for culinary arts. The delegation also listened to a presentation by a young man who enrolled in the program after being unsatisfied with his previously chosen career. He shared insight from a student’s perspective.

The next stop was lunch, served by handicapped students at the “Ausbildungshotel Zeuthen,” a facility run by the Annedore-Leber-Berufsbildungswerk, which provides special training and support to students with mental, physical or social handicaps. The school’s psychologist, Dr.Schwänzer, spoke about integrating students with significant learning disabilities into the job market.

The day was rounded out with a visit to Kleeblatt Wildau, a community center where Frau Petra Reichmuth, the director, shared experiences with social outreach projects and their children’s day care in the Wildau community. The delegation was deeply impressed by the passion and commitment displayed by Frau Reichmuth.

Day Five – Ausbildungshotel Zeuthen, a facility providing training and jobs to those with a handicap.

Day Five – Ausbildungshotel Zeuthen, a facility providing training and jobs to those with a handicap.

Day Five – Learning about Oberstufenzentrum KW's Culinary Arts Program

Day Five – Learning about Oberstufenzentrum KW's Culinary Arts Program

Day Five – Kleeblatt Wildau Community Center

Day Five – Kleeblatt Wildau Community Center

A bus brought the visitors from Israel on day six to an economically depressed area in Berlin to visit Puk a Malta for discussions about “education with vision” for young people with immigration background. Success and failures of integration were discussed. Of special note was effective use of music to motivate students to articulate themselves in German. The delegation watched a moving rap video, Die Würde des Menschen, that was written and produced by a group of young men and women to address the recent suicide of a young Muslim girl in their neighborhood. The girl, who had been willing to integrate into her new society was locked up and stifled by her father who perceived Germany as hostile to his culture and did not wish his daughter to receive an education outside of being a wife and homemaker. In a different rap production students expressed what it meant for them to now be part of the European Union.

Day Six – Wildau’s Mayor Dr. Malich addressing the delegation at the PTTD closing reception at the ZAK student-operated restaurant Schwartzkopff.

Day Six – Wildau’s Mayor Dr. Malich addressing the delegation at the PTTD closing reception at the ZAK student-operated restaurant Schwartzkopff.

The final event was a closing reception at the ZAK student-operated restaurant Schwartzkopff. The evening was full of conversations, smiles, laughter, gourmet food, expressions of gratitude, gifts of appreciation, and speeches, including comments by Wildau’s Mayor Dr. Malich who said,“The visit of the Na’amat Delegation in Wildau from October 28 through November 4 was exciting and informative for the hosts from Wildau. We got a glimpse of the diversity, the beauty, and the difficulties of daily life in Israel. We would be pleased if a partnership could arise between Wildau and Na’amat for the purpose of educating and integrating young people who come from difficult or challenging backgrounds.”

Wildau PR director Katja Lützelberger added, “This is an honor for us. I am happy and proud that we have institutions in Wildau such as the Zeuthener Ausbildungsakademie under the direction of Mrs. Scholz, that will organize such an exchange.”

Wildau PR director Katja Lützelberger added, “This is an honor for us. I am happy and proud that we have institutions in Wildau such as the Zeuthener Ausbildungsakademie under the direction of Mrs. Scholz, that will organize such an exchange.”

An immediate positive outcome of the 2011 PTTD was group synergy within the Israeli delegation; especially noteworthy since the delegation comprised of educators from both the Jewish and Arab sector. Spending days and evenings together engaged in active discussion allowed members to get to know their associates on a deeper level beyond their occasional meetings in Tel Aviv. A valuable group dynamic formed that the delegation plans to continue to draw upon now that they are back in Israel.

The delegation felt the scope of the program which ZAK director Marina Scholtz and forPEACE had put together was well organized and packed with thought-stimulating lectures and presentations. Those who were a part of the PTTD delegation to Germany two years ago commented that the schedule was not redundant and that it had grown with the program. In addition to educational learning, one delegation member who initially felt mixed feelings about traveling to Germany because of lineage ties to the Holocaust, expressed in a reflective letter that, “It [the program] teaches to tell the story of the new Germany, in another way which is important.”

The delegation was impressed with the German school system and the creative ways projects are organized to pull students in from various walks of life. The collaboration between businesses and schools—particularly the dedication to invest time and energy into training students—was something that they hope to promote and emulate. The educators believe strongly in the role of education and truly care for their pupils. Na’amat director Aida Levin said the Israeli ministry of education is looking to adjust regulations to allow more time to be devoted to workshops and developing focused skills. She prefers not to compare the Israeli system directly to ZAK and the German system because they are different and operate in different environments. She appreciates both in their respective spheres and is looking to adapt ideas from one to fit into the other where there is a need, but not to replicate anything in its entirety.

forPEACE would like to thank all contributors for volunteering their time, treasure and talent.

The entire experience was possible because everyone involved was willing to contribute and personally invest in the experience.