English Teacher Enhances Students' Knowledge

English Teacher Enhances Students' Knowledge Through Lessons About the Holocaust
Posted on 11/22/2019
Teacher with students at desk

Toshimi Abe-Janiga is an English teacher at Riviera Beach Preparatory and Achievement Academy. She began as a Language Arts teacher at Royal Palm Beach Community High School in 2005 before taking on her current position. 

Her interest in teaching about the Holocaust began when one of her students shared the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“I read the book and could not believe what I read,” Abe-Janiga said. “It is such a moving record of Elie Wiesel’s memories at the Auschwitz concentration camp and then Buchenwald.”

After reading the book, Abe-Janiga decided to use what she learned to serve as an example for her students, to teach them cultural awareness, tolerance, and the importance of standing up for what's right.

She searched for resources and designed lesson plans to implement the Holocaust Outreach Project. This involved connecting with schools in Japan and Lithuania to share her work and train teachers there on how best to implement the lessons in their own classrooms. The project ultimately reached more than 600 students. 

“Mrs. Toshimi teaches because she truly cares for her students,” said Mark Simmonds, the principal of Riviera Beach Prep. “Teaching English and the Holocaust to the young people of Riviera Beach Prep is what she does best. Her passion for teaching about the Holocaust requires long hours, patience, and care as she delivers such an important part of history to students.”

In October 2019, Abe-Janiga was selected to present her Holocaust Outreach Project about Chiune Sugihara to the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights in Lithuania. Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Lithuania from the Holocaust. Chiune’s son Nobuki Sugihara, attended the presentation.

Abe-Janiga’s commitment to her profession, the originality of her instruction, and her dedication to student success has earned her many accolades. She was a Dwyer Award finalist in 2016, 2019, and 2019.

She was also named Teacher of the Year by the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce in 2014 and 2018. In 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2019, she received her school’s Teacher of the Year Award. In 2012, she was selected as Teacher of the Year by Florida Atlantic University’s Center for the Holocaust and Human Rights. Additionally, she was selected as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow for 2013-2014.

Abe-Janiga also teaches SAT and ACT Prep courses. For the past two years, she has obtained grant funds from the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County to help students pay for their standardized tests.

“Mrs. Abe-Janiga is an excellent English teacher. As a former principal, I have observed her several times in class, and her hands-on approach is a perfect fit for students who face multiple challenges in alternative education,” said Elaine Hubbard-Williams, the Director of Support Services in the School District.

“Although her teaching ability appears to come naturally, I also credit her hard work and diligence. Her dedication and commitment are evident in her preparation. She is often the last teacher in the parking lot ensuring she is ready for the next day.”

Abe-Janiga is inspired by the words of leading Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg, who said “at crucial junctures, every individual makes decisions, and...every decision is individual.”

Students standing in a group in classroom Students standing in a group in auditorium

The School District of Palm Beach County