Using Human Rights and Genocide Education to Encourage Upstanders

  • july 28 - august 2 in boston

  • registration opens february 2019

The Upstander Project is proud to present the Upstander Academy, an inquiry-based professional development opportunity for secondary teachers and museum educators with a focus on genocide and human rights education to foster upstanding and address complex historical and current issues.  The six-day 2019 Academy, to be based in Boston for the first time, will be offered in partnership with Boston Public Schools and Akomawt Educational Initiative. Past Academy participants have spent time on Sacred Tribal Land at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum.

Upstander Academy 2016 participants in Listening Circle

Teachers and museum educators interested in themes such as post-genocide Rwanda and genocide against Native peoples in the U.S. are encouraged to participate. These content areas provide a helpful framework for learning new teaching methods and approaches, and about the importance of upstanders.

UPSTANDER ACADEMY participants will:

  • Explore new content about post-genocide Rwanda and genocide against Native peoples in New England.

  • Test innovative teaching methods that support the Inquiry arc, and critical and creative thinking.

  • Learn to work with primary sources and learning activities using materials and tools from the Library of Congress.

  • Practice and model the skills of upstanders in their classrooms, museums, and communities.

  • Become part of a growing professional community of colleagues that integrates human rights and genocide education into classrooms and museums.


The Academy will feature experienced genocide and human rights educators, documentary filmmakers, museum educators and guest presenters. Three documentary films by Upstander Project, CoexistFirst Light, and Dawnland will be featured as cornerstones of teaching and learning. With regard to Rwanda, we ask: How does a society ravaged by genocide begin to heal? With regard to genocide against Native peoples, we ask: What is the connection between the taking of the land and the taking of the children?

core faculty

Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., is the learning director for the Upstander Project and Education Fellow at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut. She is director of the Upstander Academy, a weeklong professional learning experience for teachers and museum educators that focuses on genocide and human rights education and the skills of upstanders. Currently Dr. Lesser spends much of her time researching and writing the five-inquiry Teacher's Guide for Dawnland. Mishy authored the Coexist Teacher’s Guide to promote learning about the complexity of reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda. She is a Circle Keeper and has been featured on WBUR (Boston) and PRI/BBC’s The World. Mishy was a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador and spent 12 years learning and working in the Andes. 

Chris Newell (Passamaquoddy) is manager of museum education at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Mashantucket, CT and co-founder/director of education for Akomawt Educational Initiative. He leads the development of educational programs for the museum and beyond, changing the narrative of how Native history and contemporary issues are taught at all levels of education and in the public. Chris was born and raised in Indian Township (Motahkmikuhk), Maine. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut as well as continuing education in Native studies.  Chris works with the Upstander Project in his mission to leave this world better than he found it and serves as the Senior Advisor on Dawnland

endawnis Spears (Diné, Ojibwe, Chickasaw, Choctaw) is impassioned about the diverse and complex intersections of Native American narratives and museums.  She has worked with and for Native communities and museums across the country and has worked in the education and marketing and development departments at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. She is the Director of Outreach and Programming and founding member of the Akomawt Educational Initiative, an Indigenous education and interpretive consultancy.  Originally from Camp Verde, Arizona, she lives in Rhode Island with her husband Cassius Spears Jr., and their three children, Nizhoni,  Sowaniu, and Giizghig. 


Adam Mazo is the director of the Upstander Project and is also co-director and producer of First Light (Camden International Film Festival) and the feature-length film, Dawnland (Independent Lens). Adam is also the director and producer of Coexist (WORLD Channel). His work has been featured on television, at film festivals and international conferences, and at universities, and schools. He lives in Boston with his family.


gkisedtanamoogk (key-said-TAH-NAH-mook) is Wampanoag from the community of Mashpee located on what is currently called Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He served as co-chair of the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was an Adjunct Instructor with the Native American Studies Program and the Peace and Reconciliation Programs on the Orono campus of the University of Maine for more than a decade.

Claude Gatebuke is Executive Director of the Africa Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN), which works to build peace, justice, and prosperity for all in the African Great Lakes Region.  A survivor of the Rwandan genocide and civil war, Claude is a human rights advocate and teachers who travels extensively, speaking out, raising awareness about justice, injustice and other challenges faced by the African Great Lakes.


  • Time and space for personal and professional reflection

  • New skills for deep listening, student engagement, and document analysis

  • New resources to cultivate upstanders and foster a values-based classroom and museum

  • A supportive community of learners and colleagues


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The Upstander Academy was founded in 2016 by the Upstander Project in partnership with the University of Connecticut’s Dodd Center and Humanities Institute as a three year pilot. Starting in 2019 the Upstander Academy will be held in Boston.