Former Nazi youth leader chooses new life as patriotic American school teacher

6a00e5537b38b68833013488768362970c-800wiSometimes individuals who have the most amazing personal stories become examples of remarkable educators. One such example is Maria Anne Hirschmann, a former Nazi youth leader who became an honored American educator.

Maria Anne Hirschmann, popularly known as Hansi, was born in Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. As an infant, she was abandoned and raised in a foster home. When Nazi troops invaded her country in 1938, they travelled the countryside testing all the local children, even those who attended the little one-room school that fourteen-year-old Hansi attended. The child was selected to be sent to Prague to be trained as a Nazi youth leader. “For the first time, somebody actually chose me, ” Hansi once remembered. “I was the poorest kid in the village, so I could not expect to go on to high school or college. Now I thought I had caught the rainbow.” Brainwashed, the youngster pledged her allegiance to Adolph Hitler. When Germany was defeated in WWII, Hansi, by then nineteen, spent several difficult months as a prisoner in a Russian communist labor camp. One day, she simply walked out of the camp, expecting to be shot. The shot was never fired. After spending several weeks exposed to the elements, with only herbs and mushrooms to eat and sleeping under trees or bridges, Hansi found herself in American-occupied West Germany. In 1955, she immigrated to the United States with her husband and two children. In America, Hansi learned a deep appreciation for her adoptive country and came to embrace the American philosophy of freedom. She became a naturalized citizen in 1962.

Settling in California, Hansi enrolled in Pacific Union College, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution located in Napa Valley. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and psychology. Then this amazing woman became a teacher in Riverside, California, and earned distinction with her work with troubled teens and high school drop-outs. She established a cooking school for boys, instructed remedial subjects, and taught arts and crafts courses.

Hansi also authored several books. Her best-selling volume is her autobiography, Hansi: The Girl who Left the Swastika. The book has sold more than 400,000 copies in English, and has been translated into many other languages, including Russian and Polish. Her life story has also been adapted in the comic Hansi: The Girl who Loved the Swastika, published by Spire Christian Comics.

This chalkboard champion has earned honors from the Daughters of the American Revolution American Medal and the Distinguished Service Citation from the International Christian Endeavor Society.

Leonard Covello Offers Great Insights Into Pluralism in Education

9781592135219_p0_v1_s260x420[1]Here’s a great book for anyone who is interested in progressive education or pluralism in education: Leonard Covello and the making of Benjamin Franklin High School: Education as if Citizenship Mattered. The authors are Michael C. Johanek and John L. Puckett.

Leonard Covello came to the United States in 1896 as a nine-year-old Italian immigrant. Despite immense cultural and economic pressures at home, Leonard wanted to get an education. As an adult, he analyzed the cultural and economic pressures he faced as a child and teen, which were common in Italian immigrant households at that time. He realized that Italian parents viewed the school as a wedge between their children and the family. He recognized the pressure even the youngest Italian children faced to go out and get a job rather than succeed in school. His answer? Involve the parents in the school, and involve the students in the community. The result was New York’s Benjamin Franklin High School, a truly innovative marriage of school and home. Lots of lessons in this story are relevant even in today’s times, especially for school personnel who are clamoring for more involvement from parents in the school system.

You can find this eye-opening book on amazon.com at the Leonard Covello link. You can also read the abbreviated version of Leonard Covello’s life story in my first book Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Remarkable Teachers Who Educated America’s Disenfranchised Students.

Educator Eulalia Bourne: She’s Part of the Colorful History of the West

EulaliaBourne2[1]American history is full of colorful individuals who made significant contributions to the settlement and development of the West. One such individual is teacher Eulalia Bourne. This remarkable educator, whose career spanned more than four decades, taught elementary school in rural areas, mining camps, and Indian reservations throughout Arizona during some of our country’s most challenging periods: World War I, the Depression, and World War II. This women’s libber was ahead of her time, becoming one of the very few women in her day to own and run her own cattle ranch.

Eulalia thought outside the box in many ways. Every year on the first day of school she would wear a new dress, usually blue to complement her eye color. Every day after that, she wore jeans, Western-style shirts, cowboy boots, and Stetson hats to class. She was once fired for dancing the one-step, a new jazz dance, at a birthday party some of her students attended, because the clerk of the board considered the dance indecent! She even learned to speak Spanish fluently and, when confronted with non-English-speaking students, taught her classes in Spanish, even though it was against the law to do so.

Eulalia is probably best known for producing a little classroom newspaper entitled Little Cowpunchers which featured student writings, drawings, and news stories about classroom events. Today, these little newspapers are recognized as important historical documents of Southern Arizona ranching communities from 1932 to 1943. Additionally, Eulalia published three critically-acclaimed books about her teaching and ranching experiences: Ranch Schoolteacher, Nine Months is a Year at Baboquivari School, and Woman in Levi’s. These volumes, although now out of print, can sometimes be purchased at used book stores and sometimes can be found at online sites featuring royalty-free works. The read is well-worth the search, particularly for those interested in Arizona history.

You can read about Eulalia’s intriguing life in a book entitled Skirting Traditions, published by  Arizona Press Women. You can also find a chapter about her in my first book, Chalkboard Champions.

Chalkboard Champion Leonard Covello: He Created the Perfect Union Between School and Home

9781592135219_p0_v1_s260x420[1]Here’s a great book for anyone who is interested in progressive education or pluralism in education: Leonard Covello and the making of Benjamin Franklin High School: Education as if Citizenship Mattered. 

Leonard Covello came to the United States in 1896 as a nine-year-old Italian immigrant. Despite immense cultural and economic pressures at home, Leonard wanted to get an education. As an adult, he analyzed these cultural and economic pressures, which were common in Italian immigrant households at that time. He realized that Italian parents viewed the school as a wedge between their children and the family; he recognized the pressure even the youngest Italian children faced to go out and get a job rather than succeed in school. His answer? Involve the parents in the school, and involve the students in the community. The result was New York’s Benjamin Franklin High School, a truly innovative union of school and home. Lots of lessons in this story are relevant even in today’s times, especially for school personnel who are clamoring for more involvement from parents in the school system.

You can find this eye-opening book on amazon.com at the Leonard Covello link. You can also read the abbreviated version of Leonard Covello’s life story in Chalkboard Champions: Twelve Remarkable Teachers Who Educated America’s Disenfranchised Students.

New York’s Julia Richman: The Chalkboard Champion of European Jewish Immigrants

richman[1]Julia Richman was a truly remarkable educator of the late 1800s. The daughter of Jewish immigrant parents, Julia declared at a surprisingly early age that she would reject the traditional role of wife and mother and opt for a career in teaching instead.

At 15, Julia enrolled in college courses at New York City’s Female Normal College, the precursor to Hunter College, graduating fourth in her class in 1872. She then devoted the next forty years of her life to teaching and improving the lives of the Jewish immigrant students who were entrusted to her care, first as their teacher, later as a principal, and finally as a district superintendent.

During her tenure, Julia Richman pioneered innovative programs for handicapped students, English-language learners, and troubled youth, and she instituted vocational education programs and much-needed courses in health and hygiene. Many of her innovations are common practice in schools throughout the country today. In addition to her work in the schools, Julia worked indefatigably to better the lives of New York’s Eastern European immigrants through the Educational Alliance, the most important Jewish charitable organization located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

A wonderful book about Julia Richman was recently published by scholar Selma Cantor Berrol; the book is entitled Julia Richman: A Notable Woman. You can find this book on the web site for Barnes and Noble and also on amazon.com. I have also devoted a chapter of my book, Chalkboard Champions, to this most extraordinary educator. My book can be found at amazon.com at the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Chalkboard-Champions.