2020 HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development Winners Announced


2020 HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development

TORONTO, Canada | October 1, 2020

HREC Education, of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, announced that its national panel of education adjudicators has selected the winners of this year’s HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development. Presented annually to recognize outstanding educators in the field of Holodomor teaching, the award fosters excellence in the development of innovative, creative and interactive lessons for grades K-12 which develop students’ critical thinking skills while addressing the topic of the genocide in Ukraine in the early 1930s.


This year, the judges awarded educators Susan Kenney (Washington Township, New Jersey) and Natalia Onyschuk (Edmonton, AB) the HREC Educator Award for their unique lesson plans on the topic of the Holodomor at the senior and primary grade levels respectively. The winning lesson plans are posted to the HREC Education website and are made available for download by interested teachers. In addition, three Honourable Mentions were also bestowed upon educators Kelly Hiebert (Winnipeg, MB), Anna Babka (Montreal, QC) and Marion Mutala (Saskatoon, SK). Applications were submitted from across Canada and the USA.


Dr. Sue KenneyDr. Sue Kenney has been teaching social studies and language arts since 2008 at Immaculate Heart Academy (IHA), an all-girls college preparatory private Roman Catholic high school located in Washington Township, New Jersey, USA. She also taught at William Paterson University for seven years in both the English and Women’s Studies departments. Dr. Kenney received her Doctor of Letters degree from Drew University in interdisciplinary humanities. She volunteers for First Friends, an immigrants’ rights advocacy group that visits undocumented immigrants being held in detention. As a member of the First Friends team, she is a seasoned guest speaker at colleges, universities, and faith-based groups. She has been involved in various social justice projects with students over the years, including Students Against Modern-day Slavery (SAMS) and she has been chairing the Academic Integrity Committee at IHA for several years. Dr. Kenney was awarded an Alfred Lerner Fellowship from the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous earlier this year.


Dr. Kenney’s winning lesson plan for Grades 11 and 12, entitled “Imperial Famines: America’s Response to the Holodomor,” takes a unique look at how firsthand accounts from survivors raise profound questions about the U.S. response to the Holodomor and invites students to envision alternative responses. The purpose of the lesson is for students to develop a heightened sense of global responsibility in the face of injustice. Students are exposed to a variety of contextualizing historical resources and survivor accounts in this lesson. By analyzing and evaluating primary and secondary sources and examining multiple perspectives using empathy, a critical thinking skill, students evaluate uniquely posed historically difficult questions with context and depth and assess the responsibility of the world community to respond to injustice, even when it might not directly affect one’s own country. Students apply not only critical and creative thinking but also emotional intelligence to a variety of activities from individual writing, creating videos, responding to other students’ videos, posting to class discussion boards, exploring multiple perspectives by taking different viewpoints, and class discussions that develop insight and fair-mindedness. Her lesson plan is even adapted for distance learning in response to the restrictions the Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated for online teaching. It contains an excellent resource list and may easily be used in history, social justice, language arts, sociology, anthropology, religion and genocide studies courses.


Natalia ONatalia Onyschuk is a former elementary music teacher who is presently teaching Grade 4 at St. Matthew School, Edmonton Catholic School District. She is a former Vice President of the choral ensemble Dnipro Ensemble of Edmonton, and one of three performers in the Zemlia Vocal Trio and she sings with Cappella Kyrie in Edmonton. Natalia Onyschuk’s lesson, entitled “Teaching The Holodomor Through Music – The Song Dry Tears”  intends to teach students about the Holodomor by looking at this historical event through the eyes of children. Onyschuk authored an emotionally powerful and resonant song, with a piano arrangement by James French, that teaches content about the Holodomor and is used as the basis for teaching a series of three unique lessons, one in language arts, one in music and one in visual art. Her lesson plan can be incorporated into language arts, music, and visual art curriculums, and may also be adapted to the social studies curriculum. St. Matthew Ukrainian Bilingual School Choir, under the artistic direction of Natalia Onyschuk, sang the song “Dry Tears” in a recorded video which can be viewed during the lesson. The choir has performed this song and others Onyschuk has written in front of the Edmonton Legislature on past Holodomor Memorial Day Commemorations.


“This year we were pleased to see there was a strong submission for elementary grades, which will hopefully inspire and encourage more educators of lower grades to submit in the near future,” stated Valentina Kuryliw, HREC Director of Education, who created the award.


Applications for the 2021 HREC Educator Award may be downloaded from the HREC Education website. The deadline for 2021 applications is October 1, 2021.


The Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC) is a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta.  

Media Contact: Sophia Isajiw, Assistant to Director of Education, HREC
620 Spadina Ave., 2nd Floor, Toronto, ON. M5S 2H4
Phone: 416 923 4732  Email: hrec@ualberta.ca