Mishy Lesser

I am currently Learning Director for the Upstander Project, a small Boston-based organization that helps “bystanders” become “upstanders” through social issue documentary films and related learning resources. I spend much of my time curating primary source materials related to our films, creating learning activities with those materials, and working with secondary history and social studies teachers.


Our current film focuses on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Maine between the Wabanaki people and the state over the removal and forced assimilation of Native children. We released a short film, First Light, about the TRC on Indigenous Peoples' Day in 2015 and early next year will release a feature film, Dawnland, on the TRC and Indian child welfare policy in the U.S. I am currently writing a teacher's guide that will accompany Dawnland.


To deepen our work with teachers and museum educators, and in response to their requests for more time for professional learning and reflection, we created the Upstander Academy in 2016, in collaboration with the Dodd Research Center at UConn and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. I co-direct the Academy, which is recruiting its second cohort for a week of learning at UConn and the Museum (July 31-August 4, 2017). [2-17]


Mishy's earlier work:


I’ve been the Learning Director for an award-winning 40-minute documentary film called Coexist on post-genocide Rwanda since 2009. I wrote the film’s four-lesson Teacher’s Guide, which serves as a tool for middle and high school and post-secondary educators who teach about genocide and colonial legacy. The film is used widely for social emotional learning, to cultivate beliefs and behaviors that undermine "other"ing and scapegoating, and to encourage upstanding and reconciliation.


Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, informed its vast network of teachers about our film, and it’s now in the hands of more than 3,000 teachers all over the U.S. I do classroom teaching as well as faculty development, and work with counselors and school administrators who address bullying in their schools. On a trip to San Diego in late 2012, I was struck by how relevant the themes of genocide and colonialism are to teachers and students who live and work in this borderland, where a high percentage of students are "other"ed because of their legal status and where their parents were born.


I’m also developing a new project to create an online interactive new media curriculum to teach U.S. high school students about the intersection between U.S. foreign policy and human rights in Latin American during the Cold War. A group of interns from the Harvard Graduate School of Education helped me kick off the project this past fall. I’m currently applying for grants and beginning to develop a video archive of witnesses and survivors and commentators of major foreign policy/human rights events. The first module will focus on Chile and the second on Central America. [1-13]



Email: mishylesser@gmail.com



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CIE Graduate