PERRYSBURG — A Penta Career Center teacher has received national recognition for his study of the genocide in Armenia.
David Harms, who taught social studies, global issues and US government at Penta for 20 years, received an award for Armenian Genocide education earlier this year.
Harms was among 11 educators honored with the award for their instruction, support and education about the Armenian Genocide.
“Holocaust Bearing Witness,” a documentary aired on PBS, had interviewed six Holocaust survivors from northwest Ohio.
Harms received a Fulbright scholarship in 2014 and it allowed him to go to Europe to study the Holocaust and travel where these survivors traveled before coming to the United States.
He visited Poland, Hungary and Greece.
“When I came back, I had a lifetime of experience studying the Holocaust,” Harms said during a presentation to Penta’s board in April.
The lesson plan he developed from that trip for his Global Issues course helped him win the award, Harms said.
When her students come to her class, most have studied the Holocaust at some point. He has them look to world events for the 10 steps that lead to genocide. They create a website and publish their findings.
“The Armenian (genocide) stands out because when we study classifications, the last one is denial.”
Harms said the hardest thing for his students to understand was that last step.
“How can people deny that the Holocaust happened? You see it everywhere,” he said. “That’s where Armenia comes in.”
During World War I, Armenians were driven from their homes and many were massacred, Harms said.
Turkey, which initiated the death marches in 1915 and 1916, refuses to this day to admit that it happened, Harms said.
“The Ottoman Empire was falling apart during World War I. They aligned themselves with the Germans and the ruling Young Turks decided they wanted their land all to themselves,” Harms said.
It was Islamic versus Christian, and the Armenians were Christian, he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were moved to the desert which is now part of Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Many orphans were rescued by a French ship and most settled in the United States, Harms said.
“It’s just a story that my students can really relate to, when we start talking about saving children,” he said.
The term “genocide” only appeared in 1944 and was coined by a Polish lawyer.
Harms students study bad events, apply the 10 steps learned in class, and decide if the events meet the United Nations definition of genocide.
Harms uses Penta’s labs whenever possible. One student poured his project in concrete, another welded his, and still others used techniques learned in construction and cooking.
Students also study the atrocities committed by Pol Pot in Cambodia and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, as well as what happened in Bosnia and Rwanda.
“There are political reasons why you don’t want to call something genocide because we signed a treaty saying we’ll come in with troops if we have to,” Harms said.
He said he also added what was done to Native Americans and the “Trail of Tears” just to prove that there are things in our history too.
Harms wants his students to “critically investigate everything that is going on around them. Whether it’s the government doing it or other countries doing it, be aware that things can go really wrong.
Winning the prize was a surprise.
“I didn’t expect to win because I’m not in the western half of the United States,” Harms said.
He said he was the only recipient of the award east of the Mississippi River, one of two teachers, and the only one who was not Armenian.
Harms had to pre-record a three-minute speech for the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region, which is the largest nonpartisan Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the western United States.
April’s awards show was virtual, but he’s been invited to host it in person next year in San Diego.
“Teaching about the genocide every year but being recognized by one of the groups that lived through it is something you don’t see every day,” he said.
Originally from Tiffin, Harms is also a professional musician and does a radio show every two weeks. He writes and sings a new song for each episode.
Tinfoil, his 31-year-old band, plays three to four times a month. He also performs solo as Dave Harms Acoustic.
Harms graduated from Bowling Green State University and the University of Lourdes and earned his doctorate. from Walden University.