Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission Awareness - Education - Inspiration

THGC Announces Recipient of Dr. Anna Steinberger Outstanding Texas Educator Award


L: THGC Commissioner Peter Berkowitz presents award check to Robert Wiggs
R: Esther Rivera, Cyndi Severns-Ponce, Robert Wiggs,
Peter Berkowitz, Susan Ransleben, Matt Verdugo, J.E. Wolfson, and Cheyanne Perkins

The THGC’s mission is driven by education, and one of the most important things we can do in that regard is to assist teachers. The Dr. Anna Steinberger Outstanding Texas Educator Award recognizes the Texas teacher most dedicated to Holocaust and/or genocide education. This year, THGC received applications from all regions of the state.  Please join us in congratulating Robert Wiggs of Austin High School in El Paso as this year’s recipient!

Principal Cyndi Severns-Ponce and staff of Austin High School kept the award a secret until staff and commissioners arrived on May 15th to present art teacher Robert Wiggs with the award and a $1,000 check. Mr. Wiggs, who is also a professional artist, incorporates art history lessons about the importance of human dignity and the historic use of propaganda to create awareness. He regularly integrates current events of genocide and relevant global news into his art class discussions. Major city news stations joined us for the big reveal. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to see links to videos and photos from the event.

El Paso KTSM News Channel 9 Video

El Paso ISD News

Excerpt from the letter of Robert Wiggs to Dr. Anna Steinberger:

Dear Dr. Anna Steinberger,

I would like to express my profound gratitude for the establishment of your Outstanding Educator Award. Last Tuesday, I was simultaneously surprised, shocked, elated, honored and humbled to receive it…

…When I first found out about the grant I was just glad to know something like this existed. Initially, I wasn’t going to apply at all, figuring history teachers were doing this better than I. Then I started thinking about what my students affectionately refer to as “Depressing Art Friday”. The more I thought about how much time we spend discussing Holocaust/genocide issues and analyzing artwork related to this subject, the more I thought “I might as well give it a shot”….

…This award has strengthened my resolve to continue teaching this difficult material. I don’t need much motivation to study this subject as it’s part of my recreational studies and reading…

…Seeing my family, my colleagues, my students all gathered …well, let’s just say that I’m glad the THGC commissioners spoke for a bit before me because they gave me time to compose myself. In the video of the presentation, when I’m talking about the transformative moment of seeing the Degenerate Art Exhibition reassembled by the Art Institute of Chicago you can hear a wobble in my voice… indicative of my just barely being able to contain the emotion of the moment...

Thank you so much, Dr. Steinberger.

Robert Wiggs
Austin High School
El Paso, Texas

About the Dr. Anna Steinberger Outstanding Texas Educator Award

This award was generously funded by Dr. Anna Steinberger, through Friends of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.  Dr. Steinberger is a Holocaust survivor, and a founding member of the THGC.

The award is open to all Texas educators of grades 5-12 (this includes teachers, librarians, and curriculum specialists).  Applicants must demonstrate their commitment to teaching about the Holocaust and/or the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, or Iraq/Syria, by completing an application.  The winner receives a $1,000.00 prize.

The THGC understands how hard Texas teachers work and how important the work that they do is to the lives of their students and future generations.  If you know a Texas teacher (including yourself) who demonstrates a commitment to educating their students about the Holocaust and/or other genocides, please keep an eye on our website for more information on the Dr. Anna Steinberger Outstanding Educator Award! Applications for the next prize period will be due in Early 2019.

Applicant criteria include...
• ...hold at least a bachelor's degree.
• ...be employed full-time as a teacher, curriculum specialist, or librarian at a public, charter, or private school in the state of Texas.
• ...have at least three (3) years of experience working with students.
• ...have a record of teaching or actively supporting the teaching of the Holocaust and/or genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Sudan, and the Middle East to students in grades 5-12.

Check back soon for submission instructions for the 2019 award year.
Please contact J.E. Wolfson at j.e.wolfson@thgc.texas.gov with questions about the award.