Making a difference in the school community

Seneca Valley School District  |  Posted on

Ms. Michele Russo

Recognized for building a more inclusive, engaged and equitable school community, Ms. Michele Russo, English teacher at Seneca Valley Intermediate High School, has been selected as a recipient of the Antisemitism Civic Courage Award by the Shine A Light organization.

Shine A Light is a national, purpose-driven convening platform for organizations, companies, institutions and individuals to unite in shining a light on antisemitism in all its modern forms. The 2023 Shine A Light on Antisemitism Civic Courage Award honors students and educators who exemplify what it means to be upstanding citizens when it comes to taking action against antisemitism and countering hate in their communities.

“To receive this award is quite an honor,” said Ms. Russo. “It means so much that this recognition validates the important work that so many of us are doing in trying to combat not only antisemitism but celebrating diversity as well. I am more motivated than ever to continue to move forward with projects and initiatives within my classroom, the district, and advance into more community engagement.”

Ms. Russo has made it a personal and professional goal to not only learn more about marginalized groups but to discuss them in the classroom to further educate students and help break down barriers. She has traveled to Poland with Classrooms Without Borders to gain more knowledge about the Holocaust, and she also traveled to the south to expand her knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement.

Like many, Ms. Russo was heartbroken by the massacre that occurred in 2018 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and she is committed to combatting hate and antisemitism.

In addition to her curriculum, Ms. Russo recently worked in the library to create stations titled “Stronger than Hate.” Her sophomore English class learned about hate and propaganda around them including antisemitism and watched the film Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life.

Ms. Russo is also the Education Initiative Coordinator for Leadership through Innovation in Genocide and Human Rights Teaching (LIGHT), a network of students, teachers and community leaders working together to bring innovation to human rights advocacy and genocide prevention.

“I would like to congratulate Ms. Russo for receiving the Shine A Light on Antisemitism Civic Courage Award,” said Mr. Chet Henderson, Principal of Seneca Valley Intermediate High School. “Her commitment to combating antisemitism is noticed by all within the intermediate high school, and her commitment to educating students about the negative effects of antisemitism and hate is making a difference within our school community.”

For more, watch WTAE’s story.