Distance Learning

Teacher Uses Skype To Teach Students about the Holocaust

With the help of Skype, a Virginia history teacher is passing on the story of his family's escape from the Holocaust during World War II.

For 33 years, George Cassutto, a teacher at Harmony Middle School near Hamilton, VA, has been telling the personal story of how his parents, Ernest and Elizabeth Cassuto, Jews from the Netherlands, both managed to escape Nazis before meeting, getting married and moving to the United States.

During the early years of his teaching career in the Loudon County School District, Cassuto told his story only to the students in his own classroom in an effort to teach the lessons of the Holocaust. However, he also was one of the first adopters of technology in his district and now he shares the story via Skype to students at Eagle Ridge Middle School in Ashburn, VA, as well.

Using video conferencing tools available to him, Cassuto has been able to prepare lessons for as many as 100 students at a time.

But it wasn't his first use of technology. Back in 1995, he encouraged his students to create Web pages to document the content they had learned in his class.

"That was cutting edge then," Cassuto said in a report for Loudon Now. "Now it's almost like you can't teach without it."

Cassuto's father Ernest went into hiding in Rotterdam with his then-fiancé Hetty Winkel in 1942. However, they were separated a year later and Ernest learned Hetty had died in Auschwitz. He eventually spent most of the war in a Rotterdam prison, where he was the only Jewish person to survive.

His mother, who grew up in Amsterdam, was separated from her parents, who died in a concentration camp, and raised by one of her teachers before finding her way to the United States.

"By telling this story," Cassuto said, "I want them to leave with the message to be accepting."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.