Remarks from Gutterman Educators - Robert Weiner
Tuesday, May 05, 2020
The opportunity to be honored today is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I never endeavored to be standing here in front of you. I never expected that life would carry me to this point. However, life is never what we expect it to be and it is up to each of us to take the moment in front of us and make the most of it.
Growing up in a Jewish household, like most Jewish households, the Holocaust was not some far away thing that happened to other people. It happened to my people, to my family. Growing up in that reality led me to be well educated on the basics of the Holocaust, and by extension human rights, but it also led me to focus my individual studies in other areas.
Which is to say that the immersive nature of being brought up in a way where the specter of the Holocaust and Nazi’s was a constant, made me want to look at other areas of life. So I spent a lot of time, here at FAU, studying African American history. Which I saw as a corollary to the history of the Jewish People. A way of studying the issues of division and hate without having to focus inward too often. I also put a lot of focus into Economics and Sociological topics all of which helped prepare me for the diverse nature of being a Social Sciences educator.
After a year on campus at Santaluces the previous Holocaust teacher left and I was asked to assume the role. I was conflicted, uncertain of my desire to focus on these things. Perhaps somewhat aware that I might be well suited to the job and therefor a bit worried that it would become that central focus I had worked to avoid. That daily reminder of the losses of my family and the families of so many of my friends. It is a daunting reality to face, but after reflection it was something I knew I had to do.
Those who know me know a very simple truth. I don’t know what halfway means. In the years that followed I immersed myself into the Holocaust educator’s community and have worked very hard to be the best Holocaust educator I can be. I did it without the expectation that I would ever really be noticed. Then Linda Medvin and Maureen Carter started pushing me to apply for the Gutterman Award. I demurred.
For 2 years I pushed off the idea of being recognized, until finally I was able to accept for myself that I was deserving of that recognition, but also that my campus was deserving of that honor because no one achieves something like this alone.
Santaluces is one of the most diverse schools in the county. We are a Title I institution, with all of the issues and regulation that goes with it, and yet I was allowed to bring this incredibly important topic to these students in an innovative and unique way. That would not have been possible without the incredible support of my colleagues:
Alysia, who taught me just how much is possible both as an educator and a provider of opportunity for students through the simple act of caring.
Joe, Kristy, Mitch, Suzann, Clay, Danielle, who are as much a second family and friends as they are my cohorts and are here tonight to help me celebrate tonight.
Beth, who taught me how to be a classroom teacher when I only had the theory of an education degree to pull from.
Of course my administration who gave me the freedom to achieve this award, Wakisha Mawali and Tameka Robinson who have joined me tonight.
To all of them I owe a debt that I cannot repay and a deep sense of gratitude. This award is as much theirs as it is mine.
Recognition to Palm Beach County is also necessary. Despite some reporting to the contrary, Palm Beach County offers one of the best and most comprehensive Holocaust education opportunities anywhere in the world.
Finally, I must recognize my family. Whose love and support is not measurable. Mom and Dad, Aunt Robin and Uncle Jon: I would not be the person I am today without you. I would not have achieved this award without you. I would be nowhere without you. Thank you and I love you.
Thank you to the Gutterman Family for creating this opportunity to recognize wonderful educators.