Close to 50 Teachers Join ALBA’s First Online Teacher Workshop

August 27, 2020

ALBA’s Tony Geist, Sebastiaan Faber, María Hernández-Ojeda, and Jo Labanyi in their online session for Spanish teachers.

ALBA’s first-ever online teacher workshop, conducted over five weeks this summer, drew participants from the US, Spain, and Latin America. The topic: The United States and World Fascism: Human Rights from the Spanish Civil War to Nuremberg and Beyond.

It was ALBA night every Tuesday evening this past July, as close to fifty teachers and activists joined an online workshop offered by ALBA’s Peter Carroll and Sebastiaan Faber, along with master teacher Kelley Brown and Rich Cairn of the Collaborative for Educational Services (Massachusetts). In addition to five one-hour live sessions, participants viewed some six hours’ worth of documentaries and pre-recorded videos, read two dozen texts, and engaged in small-group discussion online.

Offered as a substitute for ALBA’s regular two-day Massachusetts workshop, the online version drew more than double the usual number of participants, as people dialed in from Oregon, Wisconsin, New York, Puerto Rico—and even Spain, despite the fact that the course met at 1 AM European time.

“Although it was the pandemic that forced us to go online, this successful experiment has showed us the great advantages of this format,” said Sebastiaan Faber, ALBA chair. “For one thing, doing this online allows for a much wider geographic reach. For another, spreading the course out over five weeks rather than concentrating it in one or two days allows for a very different type of teaching and learning.”

“The level of engagement was off the charts,” said Peter Carroll. “It was amazingly gratifying to see the great discussions that the participants were having with each other week after week.”

Starting with the initial reactions in the United States to the rise of fascism in the early 1930s, the course covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II and its aftermath, and the Cold War, focusing on questions of human rights, (non-)intervention, and transitional justice as a way to better understand the challenges the world faces today. Although the course was geared toward schoolteachers in subjects like History, Spanish, and English Language Arts, it also drew college professors, activists, and others with a political or family interest in the history of antifascism and the Lincoln Brigade.

More than three quarters of the participants reported to have learned a lot and found the course very useful for their teaching. Some 90 percent said they’d be likely or very likely use what they learned in their work.

Here’s a sampling of participants’ comments:

It was great to see how studying these events can connect to broader themes in history, as well as ethical and philosophical questions that are of great importance.

I came into the course with minimal knowledge of this time period in the US or Spain and feel like I gained an ability to connect it to WWII in my teaching.

Great materials, great organization, great teaching, very clear, focused and concrete.

Introduction to new materials, a practical and realistic sense of teaching students in a wide variety of scenarios, and the sharing of projects on the Spanish Civil War make the course extraordinarily useful.

While there is not a lot of correlation of the Spanish Civil War to my curriculum, there were so many great themes that can be carried into almost any historic discussion. We have so many things happening currently in our country that can link to the themes of the Civil War. I look forward to finding ways to use the sources and these topics to offer great ways to start conversations about important topics.

This PD has been excellent in terms of providing resources and ideas that I will actually implement in my classroom. Often when you take PD, you go through the class, make the final lesson plan, and then never use it again, but I am definitely planning on using some of the documents, videos, etc. in class next year.

Loved the class. Thank you so much. The content and discussions were so relevant.

This was a very enjoyable course … I feel like I am more knowledgeable now than I was when the course began. Thanks for a nice experience!

This was an outstanding professional development experience.

Thank you for all of the insight and beautiful lessons. This was a really great class. I took some classes this summer to keep my mind off of the insecurities of the upcoming school year and to keep busy while trying to stay put at home. I have really looked forward to the readings and lessons and then our live meetings. It has been a nice way to keep busy, although it has had my head spinning at times, it has been a very fun look at history!

It has been eye-opening and relevant!

ALBA’s online institute was co-sponsored by the Collaborative for Educational Services and the Library of Congress. All of ALBA’s teaching programs are made possible through the generous support of the Puffin Foundation. ALBA’s next online workshop will be offered on election day. More information at