Monrovia Elementary teacher takes unique approach to teaching history

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MONROVIA, Ala. (WHNT) - It's a lesson so important it begs to be taught outside of the classroom.  Each school year, Monrovia Elementary's  teacher Jesse Schmitt has a unique way of teaching his students about Anne Frank.

The lesson has a lasting impact and it's just one of the many reasons he's being recognized in this week's Tools For Teachers segment.

Schmitt takes the lessons out of his 5th grade classroom and brings them to life for his students.

"In class, we discussed the importance of never judging someone by how they look, or never judging someone by their race or their religion," Schmitt said to his students.  "That is the reason why we are here tonight, to make sure that things like the holocaust -- things like the hatred of someone just because of their religion -- that that kind of stuff doesn't happen again."

On this occasion, Mr. S, as his students know him, has gathered his class on a Saturday night to make the holocaust experience a little more tangible.

They spent the evening at a venue provided by Melissa Friday of Woodland Homes, whose son was taught by Mr. S. several in a past year.  The students ate a German-Dutch meal, were issued a Jewish passport, and pretended to be a real person who lived during the holocaust.

"I'm a firm believer that when you teach a lesson that it's best, that students learn best, when you experience the lesson first hand," said Schmitt.  "Rather than just reading a lesson out of a book, it's best to see it and to live, and that's the reason we are doing the Anne Frank night in hiding."

Mr. S. sees difficult subject matter like the holocaust and the struggle for civil rights as an opportunity for betterment.

We paid Mr. S. a visit after the Anne Frank night, back in his classroom.  We weren't just doing a story about Anne Frank night - we were also documenting this extraordinary teacher at his best.

We presented him with $319 to spend in his classroom.  Mr. S. definitely wasn't expecting it.

"Are you serious?  Oh wow, I'm totally shocked!" he exclaimed.

He says the extra cash that comes with this honor is great, but knowing that parents appreciate the effect he's had on their child's life means so much more.

"For them to look back and say, you know that out of all the teachers out of all the places that Dillon has been to, this person truly had an impact in 5th grade on his life. I mean there's no greater reward than that," Schmitt said.

Mr. S., you are obviously are teaching a very important lesson.  We thank you!