Hundreds Gather in California to Celebrate 11 Outstanding Educators Teaching the Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, Calif.—Hundreds gathered on Feb. 24, to celebrate and honor 11 outstanding educators for their dedication to teaching the Armenian Genocide in California public schools at the second annual Armenian Genocide Education Awards Luncheon, hosted by the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s (ANCA-WR) Education Committee.

The 11 honorees at the Armenian Genocide Education Awards Luncheon (Photo: ANCA-WR)

The event took place in Burbank at De Luxe Banquet Hall.  Included in the 250 guests were elected officials, superintendents, dignitaries, educators from all across the state and especially the outstanding honorees with their friends and family.

The goal of this event is to celebrate educators who have creatively taught the Armenian Genocide within their school communities, across different courses such as social science, English language arts, music, art, theater and film. The honored educators this year were:

Armenian Genocide Education Legacy Award Recipients

  • Kay Mouradian, Professor Emerita from the Los Angeles Community Colleges and author

Zaruhy “Sara” Chitjian Armenian Genocide Education Award Recipients

  • Vivian Ekchian, Interim Superintendent of LAUSD
  • Taline Krikorian Arsenian, President of the Glendale Teachers Association

Armenian Genocide Education Award Recipients

  • Alicia Gorecki, Pasadena High School, PUSD
  • Amber McLeod, Crescenta Valley High School, GUSD
  • David Wright, Selma High School, SUSD
  • Evelyn Seubert, Cleveland Charter High School, LAUSD
  • Ian McFeat, La Cañada High School, LCUSD
  • Reiner Kolodinski, Glendale High School, GUSD
  • Sandra Garcia, Theodore Roosevelt Middle School, GUSD
  • Sean Mispagel, La Cañada High School, LCUSD

“This award will help cement my commitment to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, to share their stories with all my future students, friends and family,” said honoree Sandra Garcia, who deeply moved everyone and expressed her sincere feelings. Evelyn Seubert, the video film teacher from Cleveland Charter High School noted, “We are striving to develop young people who will not be silenced, who will learn to speak against injustice. My students will never forget the Armenians.”

A scene from the banquet (Photo: ANCA-WR)

“Educating students about the Armenian Genocide provides the opportunity to teach about courage, hope, resilience and persistence. Studying genocides provides our students a window into the past. We must all gather the courage to stare through this window, never blinking at the horrors we find. Once that pain of the past starts to become blinding—only then can we see clearly where we must go in the future, never allowing atrocities like this to occur again,” stated honoree Vivian Ekchian, Interim Superintendent of the LAUSD, the second largest District in the U.S. Ekchian pleased and surprised all with her commitment to the Armenian cause.

In addition to the heartfelt remarks expressed by all honorees, the special treat of the afternoon was having Veronica Miracle, an ABC7 News Reporter as the Mistress of Ceremonies. Miracle did a superb job and charmed all attendees with her comments and personal thoughts on the importance of teaching genocide.

The program consisted of several performances emphasizing Armenian life, culture and resilience for all guests to enjoy. Through dance, the Areni Dance Group, performed the traditional Armenian “Tamzara.” In a special music performance, Hayk Davtyan played the duduk while the kanon was played by Nareh Der Hartounian. Finally, the Crescenta Valley High School Theater Arts Department closed the event by performing a special scene from their upcoming stage play based on Dr. Kay Mouradian’s novel, My Mother’s Voice.

Other memorable moments included the recognition of Ms. Taline Krikorian Arsenian, President of the Glendale Teachers Association, who fought for years to have April 24 declared a day of commemoration for the Glendale Unified School District. “I have a responsibility to my community to educate all my students about the historical significance of the Armenian Genocide and the impacts that the systematic denial by the perpetrators has on its survivors, whose descendants are sitting among them in class, including their teacher,” expressed Krikorian Arsenian.

Dr. Kay Mouradian, a longtime advocate and tireless worker on behalf of Genocide Studies moved the audience by promising to continue her work and making sure textbooks used in schools contain the true story of the Genocide. “If the Armenian Genocide is not taught in history classes, it will fade away into history as if it never happened. I especially want to acknowledge Senator Anthony Portantino, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian who have extended their political efforts to bring the Armenian Genocide to the attention of California Department of Education and textbook publishers,” said Mouradian.

The program proved to be a most moving and inspiration event, as attendees requested that the award program continue annually. Many attendees also promised to nominate educators from their districts and to support next year’s luncheon.

The ANCA-WR Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western U.S. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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