Denise LeBlanc

Recipient of the 2021 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching

May 11, 2022

École du Grand-Pavois de Saint-Yves, Rimouski, Quebec

Denise LeBlanc designed her project with the intention of raising the awareness of her Grade 5 and 6 students on the events surrounding the Holocaust and the concepts of antisemitism and racism. Developed in collaboration with the Network School, the Montreal Holocaust Museum and the Monique Fitz-Back Foundation, the Heart of Auschwitz project was a way of encouraging students to familiarize themselves with a dark time in history while highlighting examples of empathy and caring.

Taking place over the entire school year, the students used technology to start off the project with a virtual visit to the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The students examined the Heart of Auschwitz artifact – a heart-shaped booklet that was given to Holocaust survivor Fania Fainer as a birthday card while she was in Auschwitz. When they discovered the history behind the object, the students decided to create their own versions and present them to the survivor who had made the original donation.

As they carried out the project, the students met with people from the museum, who came to demystify their role, and survivors, who came to bear witness to the horrors they experienced. Throughout the project, LeBlanc fostered moments of reflection and discussion necessary for the students to forge links between the past and the present and develop their historical empathy.