An Austin High School art teacher was recognized for his efforts to educate students about the atrocities of the Holocaust and Genocide during a surprise ceremony on Tuesday.
Robert Wiggs was recognized by the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission Tuesday as the Outstanding Educator of the Year. Only one classroom teacher in Texas receives the honor each year.
“We were really struck by the application from Mr. Wiggs. Because usually you see English teachers or especially History teachers kind of live in this realm but an art teacher. It really kind of threw a curve ball at us and we just felt his application was fascinating,” Matt Verdugo with the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission explained.
Wiggs’ student, Cynthia Baylon is just one of many students who have been inspired through art. “Seeing him win this award is just really breath-taking. I’m so excited for him, so proud of him.”
For Wiggs, teaching about the darker events in history through art often has a lasting impact on his students.
“So there’s these really great threads throughout art history and of course there’s tragedy. There’s people that were killed that didn’t make it out, but when that artwork can hit you in the chest and you say ‘Oh my God,'” Wiggs said.
And the lessons these students learn through tragedies that happened long ago can be eternal – lessons that become responsibilities to pass down to future generations.