Model Monday: Freedom Writers, Erin Gruwell

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Erin Gruwell began student teaching in 1994 at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.  She was assigned to a classroom of low-performing and troubled students.

When racism became an issue in her classroom, she used the opportunity to teach her students about the Holocaust. She took her students to see Schindler’s List and used guest speakers and books that she funded with her own money.

When she became a full time teacher, she was given a class of sophomores. Her teaching was interrupted due to student protests of Proposition 187. Again, she took this as a teaching opportunity for her students. She asked them to keep journals and movies of their lives, relating gang wars to the family feud of Romeo and Juliet. She supplied the students with books about the lives of other young adults during times of war. The anonymity of these journals unified her classroom, breaking down the racial barriers that were once present.

These students were famously labeled the “Freedom Writers.” With the support and efforts of Erin, all 150 students graduated from high school.

Today we celebrate the Freedom Writers and their leader, Erin Gruwell.

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