Last week, I wrote about Freidl Dicker-Brandeis as the first subject in a new series on great teachers in history.
But then I realized, Dicker-Brandeis wasn’t just “great.” She was a badass. Here’s why:
1. She helped hundreds of children cope with the soul-crushing conditions of living in a ghetto during the Holocaust, forced to live separately from their parents and facing down their own deaths.
2. Before being sent to Auschwitz, Dicker-Brandeis had the foresight to hide two suitcases full of her students’ art so they wouldn’t be destroyed by the Nazis. If she hadn’t done so, we would have lost 4,500 testaments to the power of art to create hope and humanity in the worst of circumstances.
3. To prepare for teaching in the Terezin ghetto, she brought largely art supplies with her, instead of personal belongings and other survival items.
4. She was an accomplished artist in her own right — a student of the Bauhaus movement who studied under famous figures like Paul Klee. Here are two of her paintings.
I’m hereby renaming the series Badass Teachers in History. This is also a conscious choice to draw an alliance between history and the present — namely, efforts by groups like the Badass Teachers Association to fight education “reforms” that destroy individuality, creativity, and teacher morale in public schools.
And thanks to the Twitterers (Tweeters?) over at the Zinn Education Project, I have a whole bunch more Badass Teachers in History to write about.