On December 1, 2015, Haifa educators enjoyed a previewing of a documentary film about the Freedom Writer Project followed by an inspiring presentation by Erin Gruwell, the innovative U.S. teacher on whose experiences the film was based.
Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy, Leo Baeck hosted Ms. Gruwell, an American teacher known for her innovative teaching methods aimed at giving youngsters a “second chance.” Ms. Gruwell shared her experience and knowledge with 150 Leo Baeck teachers and other local educators. According to her, successful teachers are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. In a data-driven educational system that requires that we teach to tests, Ms. Gruwell said her objective is to teach to students. She introduced her students to the book “The Diary of Anne Frank,” as an example of someone in a difficult situation who expressed her thoughts in writing and made an impact on the world.
Ms. Gruwell founded the Freedom Writers Foundation, a non-profit organization created to “inspire young, underprivileged students to pick up pens instead of guns.” The foundation aims to positively affect communities by decreasing high school dropout rates through the replication and enhancement of the Freedom Writers Method. The purpose of the foundation is to:
- Create opportunities for students to reach their full academic potential and aspire to higher education
- Publicly and systematically promote and educational philosophy that values, upholds, and honors diversity
- Inspire students to realize their roles as vital members of their communities.
Ms. Gruwell and her students’ inspiring experiences led to the publication of a book, “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” (1999) and the production of a feature movie, “The Freedom Writers,” (2007) starring Hilary Swank.