Impact in Profile: Linda O'Dwyer

Impact in Profile: Linda O'Dwyer

Social studies teacher Linda O’Dwyer’s first experience with IWitness showed her how creative her students could be while learning how to counter hate.

O’Dwyer teaches seventh and eighth grade social studies at Parker Junior High School in the Chicago suburbs. After learning about IWitness from the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, she assigned her eighth graders the My Story Matters: Power of Story IWitness activity, which was the featured resource on Day 1 of IWitness’s “100 Days to Inspire Respect” program.

In the activity, students watch testimony clips to learn how stories have the power to strengthen human connection, then write their own six-word poems.

100 Days to Inspire Respect began January 20 and ended April 29, inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s aggressive plan for his first 100 days in office. Each day, USC Shoah Foundation released a new educational resource addressing themes of tolerance, human rights and empathy on its educational website IWitness.

Just a few of O’Dwyer’s students’ six-word stories were:

“Come Together, Grow Together, Love Together”

“Before letting go, try holding on”

“Many perspectives but just one story”

O’Dwyer said she liked being able to comment on her students’ work within the activity and being able to monitor their progress. She also appreciated how the activity utilized video, text, and poetry to offer a personalized learning experience for each student.

She noted that her students are very creative and thoughtful but don’t always have the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities to the rest of the class. “My Story Matters” gave them the space to work on a creative project individually and then share out with their classmates, and they were all impressed by each other’s work.

The activity also allowed them to connect with the survivors more personally than just reading about them in a textbook, she said.

“The "My Story Matters" activity allowed my students to understand first hand from witnesses, how hate and discrimination can fester and grow from small experiences to systematic mistreatment and hate on a devastating large scale,” O’Dwyer said.