Roger Brown

Oakman High School, Oakman AL

Research the 1994 Rwandan Genocide from the base station of Kigali to infuse first-hand accounts and primary source materials into a class on Holocaust and Genocide studies.

Where I've Been

  • Kigali, Rwanda

My Fellowship in Images

Our guide in Akegera National Park. The drive to the park gave me a view of much of the countryside and how people lived and worked.
Hotel des Mille Collines where 1,268 people found refuge during the Genocide in 1994
These children are part of the Mind Leaps group which helps struggling students through dance and other art forms. I will be bringing this information back to my students as well.
Speaking with prisoners at the TIJ camp. These men have admitted to acts of genocide and are serving their time. There are no walls and the guards do not carry guns. When ask why they don't just run one of the men replied, "We know our sins".
While studying the impact one man had on his community, Mr Sina Gerard, I learned about the impact of agriculture and how it was putting people to work. This gentleman is showing a prized cow.
We paid a home visit with one of the students of Mind Leaps which helps kids who are struggling with school.

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

I stated that I wanted to go to Rwanda to learn more about the Genocide that took place in 1994 and to bring his information back to my students. In reality, I learned about a strong and noble people who have impacted my life in a way that I will never forget. When studying about genocide, I always take the time to look at the people as individuals and not as numbers. I believe this is something that students get caught by. The people of Rwanda have changed my life forever.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

I will be bringing more life to my instruction. Teaching Holocaust and Genocide studies students sometimes get caught up various aspects such as numbers. I have always tried to guide them more toward personal stories. By doing this, my students begin to realize that while we are looking at a piece of history, we are also seeing peoples lives being impacted. I will include more and more personal narratives in my teaching and allow students to search for meaning through them.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

The connections with people. I can not stress enough the impact of people and personal stories. I have made friends in both the education world and also in the country of Rwanda. Daily I communicate with someone whose life impacted mine and this was made possible by the fellowship. Whether it be a fellow educator and we discuss practices and how we plan to use the information we have gained or a survivor from the genocide where we talk about life and how our day is going.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

My students will be impacted by the connections I have made. Let me give an example. I returned to teaching exactly a day after returning from my fellowship. Things were fresh in my mind, I was able to connect my students to a friend I made in Rwanda via video conference. This connecting across the globe is something that I believe is key to student learning. They didn't just hear from me about my trip, they were able to meet a person from Rwanda and see the reality of the history.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

I have already been working with colleagues both in my school, around the country and also in Rwanda. We have created a group where we are sharing our ideas and experiences which has allowed us to process the information gained and how this information can be used to further our students learning. My colleagues in Rwanda and I have been discussing ways to connect our students so that they can interact and learn from one another. I see great things in the future.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

My students vision is to bring a friend I met while in Rwanda to the U.S. for a visit. Now as much as I would love to make that happen I also realize there are many things to take into consideration. We will begin by reaching out to students in Rwanda and making connections. As these connections are made a true learning can take place as students begin to understand that just because someone is different, lives in a different area or has different beliefs, that we are all people.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

My hope was stated in the previous question. I want my students to understand the value of life and that all people have value no matter where they are from or the differences we have. Let us look to similarities not differences in people and make true connections that will help us move into the future. By studying genocide, I want students to realize that they need to be the voice of those who can not speak and they should take a stand when they see injustice.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I went to learn and my life was changed. I know that sounds like a simple answer but it is not. I have traveled before to authentic sites and seen first hand what people do to one another in the name of man. This adventure to Rwanda allowed me to meet people and learn more about restorative justice and how people can heal after such a horrific event. I saw country healing itself and seeking to make a difference. Professionally I am working with teachers from Rwanda to connect our students.