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May 8, 2018
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JP O'Hare

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Southern Cayuga Central School Teacher Receives 2018 Yavner Teacher Award

The Board of Regents today presented Southern Cayuga Central School District teacher William Zimpfer with the Louis E. Yavner Teacher Award for his outstanding contributions to educating others about the Holocaust. The Board of Regents established the Yavner Teacher Award and the late Regent Emeritus Louis E. Yavner of New York City, who served on the Board from 1975-1981, funded the award, which recognizes teachers who have made outstanding contributions to teaching about the Holocaust and other human rights violations.

“The profound efforts of William Zimpfer to bring a symbolic piece of the Holocaust to his community so children and adults alike learn about this dark time in history, make him so deserving of the 2018 Yavner Award,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “In speaking of the holocaust, we often say, ‘never forget.’ Through his actions, Mr. Zimpfer brings those words to life. Because of his efforts, countless individuals have learned about the horrors of the Holocaust. Because of his efforts, we will never forget.”

“As a former social studies teacher, I know how challenging it can be to teach children about the Holocaust,” said Commissioner MaryEllen Eila. “But we have a sacred duty to teach every generation about that awful period of history, so that we never repeat the mistakes of the past. Mr. Zimpfer has embraced that responsibility.”   

Because of Mr. Zimpfer’s efforts, in 2009 the Southern Cayuga Central School District became one of 11 sites nationwide to receive a sapling from the same chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see from her upper story windows while she was in hiding. Anne Frank’s diary contains several references to the tree, which she considered a symbol of hope. The work of Mr. Zimpfer, and the Anne Frank Tree Project, has made the Southern Cayuga community a permanent place of remembrance and reflection for the community and students to come and learn from the atrocities of the holocaust.  

Mr. Zimpfer is the founding member of the Southern Cayuga Anne Frank Tree Committee. Through his dedication, this group has demonstrated a commitment to providing high-quality programming throughout the school year to enhance the educational experience of students and share lessons of understanding, tolerance, and justice with their community. Annual programming includes field trips, guest speakers and food drives.

Mr. Zimpfer has taught in the Southern Cayuga Central School District for 18 years, and he continues to teach and inspire his students to learn about the Holocaust and to learn from it.

Monica Groth, a former student of Mr. Zimpfer’s who is now a college sophomore, described the impact of his teaching this way: “It was from Mr. Zimpher in eighth grade that I first learned how systemic evil can morph the minds of millions into being ignorant of their roles as murderers and villains and how it may convince the links in a chain of command that their consciences are functionless, their choices powerless and their actions mere gears in a machine. This is a frightening area of study which continues to interest me in later years.”