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9/24/2013 3:15:00 PM
Holy Cross, North Portland
Marisa Alcorn, Ka'iulani Moku-Paiva, Anne Storm, R.J. Tagorda
Marisa Alcorn, Ka'iulani Moku-Paiva, Anne Storm, R.J. Tagorda
Miriam Greenstein
Miriam Greenstein
Students met Holocaust survivor
As the school year begins, some older students at Holy Cross School in North Portland are still thinking about a talk they heard last spring. It is hard to forget, especially after recent scenes of gassed Syrian children.

Miriam Greenstein, 83, survived a Nazi death camp. When British soldiers liberated Auschwitz in 1945, they found the teen near death with typhus and tuberculosis, weighing in at 55 pounds. Her entire family was dead, including her mother, who had been sent to the gas chamber. The orphaned Jewish girl would be nursed to health and raised by Polish Catholics.

"Ignorance breeds hatred," Greenstein said last spring, speaking to Holy Cross junior high students. "Hatred is a coward's way out. There is no rhyme or reason. Prejudice can hit any group of people for any stupid reason."

When Greenstein saw news photos of chemical weapon victims in Syria, she felt on edge. But even when she hears about bullying, she gets nervous because she knows that it can all lead straight to a nightmare.

"I grew up with dead bodies lining the hallways and stacked against buildings," says the Portland woman.  

Greeinstein says human insecurity seems to be what teams up with ignorance to create hatred.  

Her book, In the Shadow of Death, tells her story. Proceeds from sales go to a local Holocaust education endowment fund.

Greenstein recalls the Polish Catholics who sneered and celebrated when she was arrested at age 12, and the other Catholics who care for her and other Jews at great personal risk. She has long been part of Catholic-Jewish talks in Portland.

One says anyone can love math. Another majored in Latin and Greek in college and has a bubbling personality. A third wants children to learn to express themselves in writing and a fourth was named one of the nation's best Catholic school teachers.

These are the new faculty members at Holy Cross.  

Marisa Alcorn, a recent mathematics graduate of Gonzaga University, will teach math to upper grades and religion to seventh graders. "I'm a big math person," says Alcorn, who attended Seattle Prep. "I want to help students have confidence, to find their own path, not just the right answer."

To help in that, she'll discern students' interests — automotive math for car lovers, sports problems for athletes, art equations for artists.   

R.J. Tagorda, 23, will take over the technology program and teach middle school language arts. A Latin and Greek major at Tulane, he is in his second year of teaching, having led classroom in New Orleans as a student-teacher.  

Tagorda, who exudes enthusiasm, says teaching is as much about creating excitement as transferring knowledge. His nightmare is turning kids away from a subject because of uninspired teaching. His dream is hearing students embrace what he teaches.  

A survivor of Hurricane Katrina as a teen, Tagorda with his family spent six months away from home in Houston. He decided to stay upbeat and it turned out to be a valuable experience.  "I like to keep things very positive," he says. "Kids do well when there is a lot of positive energy."  

Ka'iulani Moku-Paiva will teach 4th grade while Amanda Louie is away on baby leave. She graduated from the University of Portland in May.

"I want students to feel I am meeting them at their level instead of making them fit a mold," says Moku-Paiva, who focused on special education. She plans to use writing as a way for students to express their feelings.  

Anne Storm, a former National Catholic Educational Association teacher of the year, joins Holy Cross after 14 years as kindergarten teacher at St. Luke School in Woodburn. It's a homecoming, since Storm graduated from Holy Cross before going on to Central Catholic and University of Portland. Key qualities of a kindergarten teacher, she says, include flexibility and patience.

"Faith is really important to me," says Storm, whose first students are now in college.

"I want to be somewhere where I can live that out and teach it."
Early in the year, Holy Cross kindergartners are focusing on play as a way to make friends and learn social skills.



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